I Am An Ardent Supporter of All Things Bike-Related, No Matter What

04.30.2009 | 7:39 am

A Note from Fatty: Today is the last day for you to register for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. In fact, registration ends at midnight, Central time. If you’re going to register, you’d better read details here and then go register here (if you want a men’s t-shirt) or here (if you want a women’s t-shirt).

200904300722.jpgA couple of years ago, I traveled a lot. And more often than not, I traveled to New York. Now, I understand that a lot of people love living there — including two of my sisters. But the truth is, I don’t like traveling anywhere on my own, and I especially don’t like to be in a big city on my own.

So I was standing outside my hotel, waiting in a long line of people for a cab, thinking about how when I’m at home I don’t ever have to wait for a cab. And I was thinking about how when I’m at home, I know people. And I was thinking about how when I’m at home, I’d have a bunch of bikes at hand would have been able to go riding outside that morning, instead of riding on that cruel mockery of a bicycle: the exercycle.

And then, behind all the taxis, I saw the answer to all my problems: a bike taxi.

Yeah, I know some people call them “pedi cabs,” but that term sounds both alarming and creepy. I’m sticking with “bike taxi.”


I walk over to the guy with the bike taxi (Do I call him the “driver” or the “rider?” Neither seems right). I’m thinking about how awesome it is that I’m no longer waiting in a line. I’m thinking that while I’m not pedaling, I’m at least getting in a ride. And mostly, I’m thinking about how it’ll be fun to at least talk to another cyclist for a while.

Naturally, he doesn’t speak any English, and my Polish isn’t so hot, either.

That’s OK, though. I give him my destination — about eight blocks away, though I have no idea in which direction, what with my state of being perpetually lost — and he takes off.

I am caught between trying to enjoy the ride and feeling very silly. On one hand, it’s nice to be getting around this way instead of in a taxi. On the other hand, it feels wrong for me to be going somewhere on a bike, without being the one pedaling.

I seriously consider asking — via hand gestures, I suppose — whether the guy wanted to trade me places, so I could pedal for a bit. Of course, this has the largish problem that I already mentioned before: the major reason I’m taking a taxi in the first place is I have no idea how to get anywhere.

So I ride. And I think about what a fine story this will make, and how I’ll have to make a habit of riding in bike taxis more often, because they’re more in line with what I like, and they’re environmentally friendly, and how I can hardly wait to tell my sister that I just rode a bike taxi instead of a regular taxi, and why doesn’t she start doing that to get around when she needs to travel in the city?

We arrive at my destination, eight blocks away from where we started

The driver / rider / pilot says his first English words since picking me up and nodding his understanding of my destination:

“Forty dollars.”

My ideas of transnational biking camaraderie and sharing a story about how everyone should ride bike taxis vanish. Instead, I had just been on a taxi ride that cost roughly five dollars per minute. Which is almost twice as expensive as phone sex. From what I hear.

This, it turns out, is not a story about how cool bikes are. It’s a story of a small-town rube getting suckered because he thinks everyone who rides a bike is cool, and therefore didn’t ask about fare rate before the ride began.

This, it turns out, would be a story that would leave me so deeply embarrassed about my naivete that I would not tell this story to anyone for more than two years.

I got him back, though: I did not leave a tip.


  1. Comment by Aaron | 04.30.2009 | 7:52 am

    That’s awesome.

  2. Comment by buckythedonkey | 04.30.2009 | 7:54 am

    I imagine that his blog entry today will be about that non-tipping scheister who took a 40 buck ride and left nothing.

    Looks like we have an agreed 100 Miles of Nowhere route for London:



  3. Comment by leroy | 04.30.2009 | 8:06 am

    Forty dollars!!??

    There have been some nights when I’m starting my commute home, feeling tired and thinking “wouldn’t it be funny to hail a pedicab and hop in for the ride home.”

    But never again.

    Now, I can only imagine the driver saying “You know, I don’t get many guys with their own bikes hopping in my pedicab.”

    To which the only reply could be; “And at forty dollars a shot, you won’t get many more.”

    (Okay, so maybe that line worked better with the Kangaroo in the bar complaining about the $40 dollar shot of whiskey.)

    At least now I know how to make money on my commute. All I need is a Trail-A-Bike and a short layover in Times Square.

    Twenty dollars sounds fair if the fare helps pedal.

  4. Comment by Fattier | 04.30.2009 | 8:11 am

    I can’t believe you didn’t consult with BSNYC before getting in the cab!

    Remember, this happened more than two years ago. BSNYC’s blog hasn’t even had its first birthday. Though I understand it’s coming up soon and he’s making cake for everyone. – FC

  5. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 04.30.2009 | 8:26 am

    That was you?

  6. Comment by dkirkavitch | 04.30.2009 | 8:26 am

    Ouch, that’s a lot of Shot Blocks!

  7. Comment by Lowrydr | 04.30.2009 | 8:35 am

    WOW, what a rube, you better stay in that small town.

  8. Comment by (California ) Matt | 04.30.2009 | 8:36 am

    Good one Dr. Lammler!!!

    And another funny (for us anyway) story Fatty! Now you know what to do with your Tag-a-long when the twins no longer need it…head to NYC and give bike rides! You could charge HALF and still make a killing!!!

  9. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 04.30.2009 | 8:37 am

    $40 for 8 blocks? Ouch, I must be in the wrong business. Either that or he could spot a fat cyclist coming from miles away and faked a polish accent.

  10. Comment by Tom | 04.30.2009 | 8:52 am

    Same thing in Chicago. Around Wrigley there are tons of these guys but they want like $30-40 for a few blocks. So instead they ride around empty all the time in packs of 3-5.

  11. Comment by Eric | 04.30.2009 | 8:53 am


    It sounds to me like you ended up leaving him a hefty tip anyway..

  12. Comment by Rose | 04.30.2009 | 9:02 am

    How about Drider for driver/rider?

  13. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.30.2009 | 9:13 am

    Oh you tipped him:

    $15 fare + $25 tip = $40

  14. Comment by plateface | 04.30.2009 | 9:18 am

    Awesome story!

  15. Comment by bikemike | 04.30.2009 | 9:24 am

    swampland, i mean, waterfront property for sale.
    please send all funds to my nigerian account, please.

  16. Comment by Nathan | 04.30.2009 | 9:31 am

    As a pedicabber myself this seems extremely high. Generally at my company we work on tips only, and if people ask for a fare rate we generally charge $1/block.

    Pedicabbing is a fun experience if you ever have the chance to try it. You’ll meet a lot of different people and get a great workout at the same time.

    I’m sorry you got railed. If you ever find yourself in my cab be sure to say who you are and I’ll drop you for free.

    My mistake was not asking what the rate was. That was semi-boneheaded; I simply didn’t know that bike taxis — unlike auto taxis — don’t have a standardized fare. I just assumed that the driver, as someone who pedals a bike, would be cool. Had I known he was going to think of me as an easy mark and charge me $5 / block, I would have simply walked away, because that isn’t even in haggle territory.

    If I had ridden in your pedicab on the other hand, you would have charged $8, and I would have given you $20 and we both would have been happy. – FC

  17. Comment by Nathan | 04.30.2009 | 9:31 am

    And by drop I mean drop you off at your destination free of charge, not kick you out of my cab.

  18. Comment by TomE | 04.30.2009 | 9:58 am

    I knew where this was going as soon as I started to read it!! The bike taxis in Denver charge by the block…something like $5 per block. When you come out of the Pepsi Center (Nuggets/Avs hockey) they are lined up. I know someone who took one to their car in the parking lot (not more than a 3-4 min walk) and it cost them $20!

  19. Comment by Rantwick | 04.30.2009 | 10:12 am

    Just say NO, baby. I bet if you haggled before the ride they would still take you…

  20. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.30.2009 | 10:22 am

    heh. the EXACT SAME THING happened to me in Olongapo City, Phillipines, about 20 years ago.
    Only it cost 40 pesos, instead of $40, roughly $6, but an outrage compared to the going rates.

  21. Comment by Alex | 04.30.2009 | 10:40 am

    “I’m thinking that while I’m not pedaling, I’m at least getting in a ride.”

    This is what they really are talking about when they say “Junk Miles”

  22. Comment by Linda | 04.30.2009 | 10:43 am

    Having spent a lot of time in NYC, I would bet that the pedicab driver’s Polish accent miraculously disappeared after you paid and left.

    Someone offered me a job doing this at the Jersey Shore recently and while I was unable to accept the job, I did think it would be kind of fun, if not pretty hard on the knees.

  23. Comment by WheelDancer | 04.30.2009 | 11:06 am

    This just might be the career change I’m looking for except with my luck I’ll get a fare heading to the airport where in this fair city can get you arrested for no apparent reason.

  24. Comment by pedalgr | 04.30.2009 | 11:06 am

    You were obviously riding in the wrong city. In Grand Rapids, MI, we have two pedicab companies operating and you could go for an 8 block ride for just a few bucks, and even get some historical info the buildings you’re passing, IN ENGLISH! :)

    And that’s what I expected / hoped for. Because taking a bike taxi SHOULD be a cool and different experience, not a way to rip people off. – FC

  25. Comment by fxdgrjedi | 04.30.2009 | 12:09 pm

    The almost exact same thing happened to my wife and I last summer in San Diego. We took a bus into the city from the airport and had no wheels. We wanted to go to a fancy dessert place uptown so we took a pedicab. We asked how much the riders charged and they said they worked for tips. We planned to leave a generous tip since the trip was like 8 or 10 blocks. We got there and she charged us 40 flippin bucks.

  26. Comment by Charisa | 04.30.2009 | 12:23 pm

    I have never been in a bike taxi. And now that you have done some research for me, I think I will not EVER ride in one!

  27. Comment by Kt | 04.30.2009 | 1:36 pm


    The pedicabs operators here in Portland encourage haggling over the price of a lift.

    Because they don’t have a set price, so it’s sort of a “pay what you think is fair” thing.

    You should have offered $20, just to see what he would have done.

    I want to try one, personally, it looks like fun. :)

    I guess I could have haggled, but I didn’t like my position. I had already consumed the product; it was too late to discuss the price. Again, probably a naive point of view. – FC

  28. Comment by Scott | 04.30.2009 | 2:54 pm

    This was reported a couple years back about the pedicab industry in San Diego. I doubt whether things have changed. The “driders” might be getting scammed worse than their fares.

  29. Comment by Hilslug | 04.30.2009 | 4:19 pm

    Totally off topic, but I think I want to go to London just to ride the Nowhere ride. That’s a great route!

  30. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 04.30.2009 | 7:36 pm

    My lameness knows no bounds as I am too late to sign up – I will instead just add $75 to my LiveStrong challenge fund.

  31. Comment by Purple Hayes | 04.30.2009 | 8:32 pm

    I read the words “Forty dollars” and nearly sprayed my laptop with triple-cask distilled Scotch. However, only a little came out of my nose, which, in case you’re unaware, burns like hell.

    However, your comedic account of your experience in the big city was worth every seared membrane.

    You’re a funny guy, FC. Keep it coming.

    Ride on…

  32. Comment by Jon | 05.1.2009 | 3:20 am

    Hey Fatty,

    I went to China about ten years ago, and those bike taxis are everywhere. We rode in them quite a few times.

    Finally, in a smaller city with less crowded streets, I convinced the “drider” to let me take it for a spin. He wasn’t that keen — he thought that I’d be too weak to pedal it and steer it, and he simultaneously thought that I’d hop on and ride into the sunset, taking his livelihood with me. A dollar or two (which was good money in China back then) seemed to ease his fears, and he let me take it down the block. Yeah, they’re heavy, and a little hard to turn, but a bike’s a bike. I loved it! I would have a great time doing that, especially if I could get $40 a ride a few times a day.

  33. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 05.1.2009 | 4:24 am

    Of course you left a tip!

    It was the extra $28 dollars you didn’t haggle down at the beginning.

  34. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.1.2009 | 5:40 am

    “We’re on a road to nowhere……….”
    —-Talking Heads


  35. Comment by Miles Archer | 05.1.2009 | 11:40 am

    I was just in Amsterdam, and they have fake bike taxis. Yep fake. They look like bike taxis, there is guy up front pedaling, but if you look closely, he’s not pedaling anywhere near fast enough. The bike accellerates away while he’s casually pedaling. There are electric lights on the cab, and I’m sure there is a battery and an electric motor in there someplace.

  36. Comment by Marla | 05.1.2009 | 6:46 pm

    Well, that stinks. I rode one in Charleston and it was $4 per 15 minutes!


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