The contraptions look like tables on wheels. With roofs. And bar stools. And pedals.
They're called everything from pedal crawlers to pedibuses to party bikes, but they're basically the same design - human-powered, multipassenger vehicles. And they're coming to Chattanooga.
Two companies are launching pedal carriage businesses that will offer tours of Chattanooga's pubs and bars. As many as 15 customers per bike will have the chance to pedal their way through downtown and the Southside, guided through the streets by a trained - and sober - driver.
The two separate companies, Pints and Pedals and Chattanooga Brew Choo, plan to take to the streets this week, if each receives final approval and operating permits from the city's Transportation Board on Thursday. The city panel, which must issue an operating permit for each vehicle, will meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
Pints and Pedals, co-owned by Chris Brown and husband and wife pair Tammi and Eston Mayberry, will offer two-hour roundtrip tours on two different routes in both downtown and the Southside. Customers will pay $25 per person for a spot on the bike, which will stop at places like the Flying Squirrel and the Terminal. Groups of 10 or more can rent the bike for a customized tour for $250.
Chattanooga Brew Chew, on the other hand, will offer one-way, two-hour trips from the Chattanooga Choo Choo to the Tennessee Aquarium and vice versa, with stops at bars like the Pickle Barrel and Hair of the Dog along the way. Customers will pay $25 to for the one-way trip and owner Rufus Marye hopes riders will take the city's free electric shuttle back to the starting point. His bike is also available for private tours, at $125 per hour.
"The bike itself is so neat," Eston Mayberry said. "You've got lights going, you can plug in your iPod and play your own music. It's really a cell phone camera magnet. As soon as you're going down Market or Main Street, people just stop and stare."
Pints and Pedals pioneered the idea in Chattanooga and had to work with city lawmakers to change codes in order to allow the unusual vehicles on the streets. While the bikes fall under the city's pedal carriage ordinance, the code was written for pedicabs, so it restricted the number of passengers to three and declared that only one person could propel the bike at a time, Mayberry said.
"There were laws that needed to be changed," he said. "So we started that process and were very fortunate that the City Council has been wonderful to work with."
Not everyone is happy about the bikes. Some Chattanoogans worry that the slow-moving carriages will snarl traffic and put more drunk people on the streets. Mayberry said his carriage will pull over if traffic starts to pile up behind it. And riders won't be drinking alcohol while pedaling on the streets, Marye said.
"You're not using an engine, you're outside, and it's safer than people driving from bar to bar," he said.
Both companies are optimistic that demand will be high enough to support two bikes in Chattanooga, despite launching at the same time as each other and just as the weather turns cold.
"It's different," Marye said. "Why ride our bike? Well, why go to the movie theater when you can rent a Netflix? It's something different that brings the group together. It's fun."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or email@example.com.