Todd Miner believes his new bicycle cab business, which launched in April, provides a perfect blend of his love for the outdoors, physical exercise and getting people to slow down and smile.
The company is called “Vamos! Lion Chariot.”
Miner’s personal interest in speaking and teaching Spanish is evident in the name which translates to “Let’s Go!” The pedicab business is normally found in resort areas and big cities, but Miner believes it will become a popular attraction in a university town like State College.
“I think the idea of a lion chariot conjures exotic images of ancient Rome,” he said. “I am in the business of moving people, but moving them in a way to make them relax and smile.”
A meteorologist by training, Miner was once responsible for providing the New York Times with its daily weather page. When Penn State lost the contract, Miner looked for alternative ways to generate income. His bicycle cab business is one of them.
“The business is one of three jobs I have,” he said.”I am an academic tutor at the (Penn State) Morgan Center and a forecaster at AccuWeather.”
Miner hopes to offer rides to customers on campus and in downtown State College. He has no plans to venture much beyond those areas. He met with various Penn State departments, including transportation officials and the Penn State Police to explain his business plan.
“They gave me their blessing,” he said.
While pedicabs do get people from one place to another, Miner sees his business as more of a local attraction and opportunity for private tours and special events.
“A taxicab or a bus is for practical purposes,” he stated. “But the pedicab has an entertainment component. And while there will be practical rides, from point A to point B, I see “Vamos!” providing things like date rides and campus tours. It’s an attraction for visitors.”
Miner said his business plan calls for additional vehicles by the end of the summer. At present, he is the lone pedicab cyclist in Centre County. He owns five vehicles and is in the process of interviewing individuals for positions as cyclists and tour guides.
“I want to give Happy Valley a reason to smile,” Miner said. “So my cyclists need to be able to cycle uphill with three people in the vehicle and at the same time be friendly and offer guided tours.”
Currently, Miner also is looking to bring people on board who have a business background.
“I need help with the managerial aspects of business. Most new businesses do,” he said. “As much as possible, I want to make this a Community service. For example, we can give ride at birthday parties or take retirees around the arboretum. It’s almost like an amusement park ride for little kids. I see tremendous growth potential. Taking a ride in a pedicab makes you feel good.”
A fully outfitted pedicab, with all the proper liability insurance coverage, runs around $20,000, Miner noted. He has five vehicles, though most are not yet road worthy.
Miner sees his business running from late March through November, weather permitting.
“In rain we have protection for the passengers, but not for the driver. When it’s too cold or icy, we won’t run, of course,” he said.
At the moment, Miner is offering free rides around the central core of State College and Penn State. In addition to promotional rides, he is seeking advertisers who want to have a message placed on the side of his pedicabs
Miner thinks that when he sntarts charging, rides will cost $1 or $2 per person.
“Another way to go is with zones; flat prices with zones,” he said.
The pedicab business is not regulated or licensed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, so there is no suggested pricing for pedicab rides.