Pedal-powered taxis green up your downtown ride 

Eco-philes will love them because they're a zero-emissions way to get around. Divas will like the Cleopatra factor of truly personal courier service. Late-night revelers will love how they relieve responsibility. Call them rickshaws, bike taxis, or pedicabs — these human-powered coaches are poised to transform how you get around downtown, says entrepreneur Nick Crist.

Crist's company, Indy Pedicabs, launched this month and is the first of several companies set to provide on-demand service. "Maybe you work at One America, but you want to have lunch at Scotty's Brewhouse," says Crist. "We'll get you there."

A Purdue grad with experience in the hospitality industry, the energetic Crist saw the success of pedicabs while living in Ybor City, Florida: "As in the French Quarter in New Orleans, pedicabs were a hit in Ybor City because the area is pedestrian-friendly."

Rickshaws were invented in 1869 by a European missionary trying to usher his invalid wife through the streets of Yokohama, Japan. Crist's modern pedicabs can pull up to 400 lbs., accommodating two to three adults, or one adult with children. His team of pedal pushers covers an area bounded on the north by St. Clair, on the south by South St., on the west by White River Park, and on the east by College Ave. The territory includes Fountain Square, where Indy Pedicab is headquartered, in an old gas station at College & Fletcher.

Crist is poised to serve downtown employees, convention visitors and residents who want a night on the town but don't feel like vying for parking. He also plans to offer historic neighborhood tours and other chartered services.

Does Crist see a difference between his human-powered taxis and the horse-drawn carriages that plod through downtown pulling prom couples? "Those carriages are there for purely entertainment purposes, for leisurely getaways," Crist says. "Pedicabs are also for that, but we are practical. Our focus is getting you from point A to point B."

So how fast does a pedicab go? From Fountain Square to downtown in under 12 minutes.

Getting a lift involves calling Indy Pedicabs 5 to 10 minutes before you need your ride, or making a reservation in advance online at Fares are one dollar per person, plus one dollar a block — or less. To get customers comfortable with the service, Crist invites first-time riders to set their own fares, "as long as you have a good time and call us again." Tipping drivers is also de rigueur. (Crist is also seeking drivers for hire who love people and exercise).

The eco-friendly nature of pedicabs is a key benefit. "Every individual who takes a pedicab instead of driving has lessened their carbon footprint," says Crist. Another benefit? Noise pollution reduction.

Crist is stoked about the plan for Monument Circle going car-free in August. "I think the closing of the circle to auto traffic is going to be tremendous for the city, long term," he says. "We can get a lot more out of the Circle than what we do now. We at Indy Pedicabs want to take part in anything that's going on down there."

Crist has faith that Indianapolis is ready for pedicabs. "This business has been successful on east and west coasts. This is definitely going to be a home run."

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