New Chattanooga business putting pedal to metal downtown

New Chattanooga business putting pedal to metal downtown

February 10th, 2011 by Brittany Cofer in Business Around the Region

Christian Thoreson, left, and Christina Holmes are co-owners of Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs. The company will start with six pedicabs, hire a couple of dozen drivers. The co-owners hope to begin service in mid-March.

Christina Holmes and Christian "Thor" Thoreson are trying to enhance Chattanooga's "coolness factor" with a business venture.

The pair has teamed to open Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs, a business that will provide rides for people downtown on bicycles with attached cab seating.

"Customer service is our goal," Holmes said, adding that the rides will be much like a concierge service, offering tourists and locals advice on the best places to eat, shop and visit. "We want to add to the positive image of the city, and we thought this would be a way to create a buzz about what Chattanooga is doing."

a natural for bike lover

After nearly 20 years of running a local hang gliding park, Thoreson decided it was time to move on to a new venture. A lover of biking, he decided he wanted to try to make a living by riding his bicycle, and the idea for Buzz Chattanooga was born.

Since October, Thoreson and Holmes have been hammering out the details of their business. Last week, the six brightly colored pedicabs arrived and the pair began interviewing potential drivers.

Drivers are licensed by the city and rent the cabs from the company, relying on tips for fare. Thoreson and Holmes hope to hire about 30 drivers, starting off with service Thursday through Sunday in mid-March and working up to seven days a week once the tourism season kicks in.

BUZZ CHATTANOOGA PEDICABS

* Six pedicabs should be on the street by mid-March.

* Drivers work on a tips-only basis, with a recommendation of at least $3 per ride.

* Riders can travel from the Tennessee River to Main Street, and from Interstate 24 up to the Bluff View Arts District.

* Check www.buzzchattanooga.com in March for the official launch date; once pedicabs are on the road, you can call 657-777-2899 for a ride.

Source: Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs

CITY PEDICAB REGULATIONS

* The Transportation Board has exclusive jurisdiction of licensing and regulation of pedal carriages and pedicabs.

* Pedicab companies must obtain a one-year permit from the city to begin operation.

* Six cabs are the maximum amount a company can operate in the first year.

* Drivers have to be at least 18 years old with a valid motor vehicle license, obtain a pedicab driver license through the Chattanooga Police Department Regulatory Bureau Transportation Inspector's office, be certified in good health by a medical doctor and pass a background check.

* Drivers must follow all laws governing operation of a bicycle, are not allowed to carry more than three passengers, operate on any bridge, bicycle lane, public park or sidewalk or in any tunnel.

Source: Chattanooga City Code Chapter 35

Advertising space for local businesses will be available inside and outside the vehicles, which is how Holmes said the company will make most of its profits.

rule cuts city in two

Johnny Brown, who ran Southern Pedicabs in Chattanooga in 2008, said a city code that doesn't allow pedicab drivers to cross bridges got in the way of his business becoming profitable, forcing him to shut down about a year after he started.

"Your drivers are supposed to pay for themselves -- they're working on tips. The way the pedicab makes money is by having advertising," Brown said. "You have all that retail shopping over on the north side [of the Tennessee River] -- that's where your advertisers can be harnessed, but all the tourists are on the aquarium side. If you can't marry the two, it really makes it difficult to make money that way."

But Holmes and Thoreson aren't worried about not being able to cross the Market Street or Walnut Street bridges.

"We were planning not to go to the North Shore anyway," Holmes said. "It's so busy, we didn't want to take that on. We decided it before even knowing about the bridge thing, because we felt like it was just too congested."

They said even without considering the North Shore, between businesses downtown, on Main Street and in the Bluff View Arts District, there are plenty of potential advertisers to keep the business going.

"We don't just advertise, we can take customers right to your door," Thoreson said.

doubling as tour guides

Bob Doak, president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he has fond memories of riding a pedicab in San Diego with his wife, and thinks the addition of the service will be one more way to enhance the tourism experience here.

"I truly believe that tourists will be attracted to this, because it's sort of an attraction in itself," he said. "Not only are they transporting people, but they can also kind of serve as a tour guide and show people the city."


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