As Michael Marcum was heading up Ninth Street on Friday, he drew the eyes, smiles and even a few camera flashes from passersby. He just rang the bell on his handlebars and kept peddling, looking for customers who might be interested in taking a free ride on his pedicab, a pedestrian taxi that allows riders to sit behind him in an open carriage.
Some of Marcum’s customers were Cate Stewart and Shpend Ibraimi, who had gone downtown that evening for some ice cream. As they situated themselves in the carriage, Ibraimi put his arm around Stewart, and the couple enjoyed a ride at dusk.
“He was a very nice driver and a good tour guide,” Stewart said of Marcum.
This reaction is exactly what Shakespeare’s Pizza Marketing Director Kurt Mirtsching said he was hoping for when the restaurant bought the pedicab a month ago for $4,500. He said the pedicab will work more as an advertising device than anything else in the financial long run.
“It’s more advertising for us,” he said. “We’re not looking at it to make money, (it’s) a promotional expenditure right now.”
He said the drivers are paid $2.13 an hour with a minimum wage guarantee.
In the last month, the Shakespeare’s pedicab has taken a random circuit of roadways stretching from College Avenue to Providence Road, Rodgers Street and Stadium Boulevard. Customers may ride anywhere within those boundaries.
Drennen Mirtsching, Kurt Mirtsching’s daughter and a frequent driver, said she’s given rides to couples, children and people in a hurry — the gamut of walkers in downtown Columbia.
“Sometimes the kids ask to go faster, and I go faster,” Drennen Mirtsching said.
Kurt Mirtsching said the restaurant is planning to buy two more pedicabs. Once demand is assessed, he said he’d like to map out tours of Columbia’s restaurants, downtown area and college campuses, and eventually offer to taxi students to their morning classes. The goal is to have pedicabs run year-round.
“I’d like to change the reaction from ‘What the heck is that,’ to, ‘Hey, it’s that pedicab,’” he said.
So far, Kurt Mirtsching said the reaction has been positive.
“Everybody waves back,” he said.