Story of a... Pedicab Driver

From his bicycle seat, Rydes Pedicab Co. owner Luke McHenry, 33, has a unique perspective of Orlando at night.

“Seeing what I’ve seen riding the downtown streets at night has completely turned me off to alcohol. I no longer feel the need to go out and drink or party. I not only have to navigate drunk drivers and traffic, but I see everyone at their most inebriated getting into trouble. Someone once jumped into my cab and refused to pay, so I started riding as fast as I could until he started yelling at me to stop. I dropped him off in front of the police station. For the most part though, people are just having fun. You learn to take the good with the bad.”

McHenry grew up riding his bike all over Central Florida. Little did he know he would end up doing it for a living. The ex-Marine graduated from Tampa’s International Academy of Design and Technology in 2002 and worked as a graphic designer until the economy went south. Then he had to search for whatever work he could find and ended up answering an ad on Craig’slist to become a pedicab driver.

What started off as simply a way to make ends meet became a full-time job, with McHenry riding 20 to 30 miles a night on both the main streets and back alleys of downtown Orlando.

“After about six months of renting a cab from what used to be Orlando Pedicabs, I decided it was something I could do on my own. So, I borrowed money from my family and bought a couple of pedicabs in December 2010. In April, I had three cabs on the street. By October, I was managing my own fleet of cabs. Now my father even works for me. He’s 60 years old and came out of retirement to ride a few nights a week.”

“It’s hard work, but at the end of each night—whether I make $50 or $200—it’s gratifying to feel like I earned my money. I found desk jobs so limiting. I need excitement and stimulation, and working in an office made me feel cooped up and isolated. I get great exercise driving a pedicab, and I’m able to experience all the sights, sounds and smells of the city.”

“It’s amazing what this job will do for your disposition. It’s a very Zen activity. Sometimes you get the really good customer who will drop a $100 bill in your lap just for riding a few blocks. That’s the kind of thing that will make your night.”

“I’m very big on branding, so I put a lot of time and effort into the design and presentation of my product. You’ll know my pedicabs when you see them. Just look for the pink Rydes logo and the posh, lighted seats.” 

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