Blue Ridge Rickshaw looking to operate a pedicab in Asheville

A pedal-powered pedicab service is looking for a new home in Asheville, despite terrain challenges that make pedicab businesses a sizable investment in a hilly town.

Blue Ridge Rickshaw will pursue a franchise agreement before the Public Safety Committee on Jan. 25, seeking to recommend that it be transferred to the Asheville City Council for review and approval.

Billed as a “local rickshaw company serving downtown Asheville,” its Facebook page announced Jan. 21 that it would arrive downtown in “April or May.”

A pedicab is classed as a slow moving vehicle operation and could have a minor impact on traffic.

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In the past, staff have brought these types of requests to the committee for review and comment, although this is not mandatory.

Pedicabs are prohibited from riding on public roads where the speed limit is 35 mph or more.

Its proposed service area spans the city, including:

  • central business district
  • South slope area
  • Hillcrest Community
  • Community of Lee Walker Heights
  • Kenilworth Forest Community
  • River Arts District
  • Montford Historic District
  • Five Points Community
  • Albemarle Park Community
  • West Asheville
  • West Asheville Estates Community
  • Falconhurst Community
  • Burton Street Community
  • Malvern Hills
  • Biltmore Village

According to the staff report, the pedicab service may use up to five vehicles in total, but only one vehicle and one operator will be used initially. Its hours of operation are proposed to be 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week.

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The service will provide point-to-point transportation and various tours, and the franchise agreement will allow it to grow.

According to its Facebook page, prices vary depending on the number of people and the distance of the trip, usually starting at $10 per person.

Staff recommends approval of the franchise agreement. While there is a chance this could impact vehicular traffic, it supports the growth of diverse jobs and business development, alternative modes of transport and “enhances the visitor experience”.

The city has struggled to maintain similar businesses in the past, such as Asheville Bike Taxi, whose owner Jessie Lehman sold her pedicab business after three years of running it downtown.

Lehman used electric motors to navigate the steep hills. According to the staff report, Blue Ridge Rickshaw can install an electric assist motor for each pedicab that cannot exceed 750 watts.

The franchise agreements require two readings at city council meetings, the first scheduled for Feb. 8 and the second scheduled for Feb. 22.

Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Current advice? E-mail [email protected] or a message on Twitter to @slhonosky.

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