Mike Rosemond offers a unique tour of Detroit. Rather than ferry people around in taxis or a bus, he transports them in a pedicab.
Rosemond is co-owner of Rickshaw Detroit, which began operating in 2007 following several months of getting approval from the Detroit City Council. The pedicabs — the company currently has three — can operate anywhere in the city.
Rosemond said that given that operating a pedicab business has been both his dream and that of his business partner, Terry Walker, their overall experience has been positive.
“Even some of the down times,” he said. “Which, after we got the clearance through the city to have pedicabs on the streets, I have to say it’s been pretty positive. People had to get used to it, so we weren’t making a lot of money; still aren’t. But it’s grown. So it’s been slow with the introduction of them on the streets of Detroit, the Riverwalk and downtown. But after that first summer, people started realizing it wasn’t this old guy just riding around with a giant tricycle, it was actually a business. People warmed up to it.”
Each year people warm up to it more.
“They see us. We try to make sure that they have a pleasant, safe ride,” he said. “People at this point, they’re flagging us down, where before we’d say, ‘Hey, we’re a business here. You need a ride anywhere? We can take you downtown. So forth and so on.’”
It’s much smoother when someone flags him down and asks for a ride.
He also said neither he nor other pedicab drivers have had problems with drivers of cars not understanding that his pedicab, as a vehicle, has every right to be on the road.
“Maybe because Detroit is a car city, that might help us more, but we’ve never had any type of problems like that where anyone has gotten real close because they think it’s funny,” he said. “Nothing like that. I’m very grateful for that.”
Everyone’s been courteous.
In the interests of safety, the pedicabs also keep their night lights on day and night.
Rosemond first became interested in the pedicab business during a visit to San Francisco to see the bay about 10 years ago.
“I was right there in downtown San Francisco, and I saw these vehicles,” he said, adding that they looked like giant tricycles. “They had people in the back and it was just fascinating.”
He decided that pedicabs would be “wonderful” in Detroit, and he ended up talking with the owner of that San Francisco company. From him, he learned key information on starting his own pedicab business.
While the pedicabs of Rickshaw Detroit can operate anywhere in the city, Rosemond isn’t up to ferrying people across town. At 60, he said he’s a bit too old for that. However, one of the three pedicabs in the fleet is based at the Park Shelton’s parking structure in Midtown.
“Because Midtown is such a fascinating, beautiful area, Terry and I said if we can get one stationed there, we can be there for Midtown residents, Wayne State University, the Ferry Inn, etc.,” he said. “From there, we can get to the New Center area.”
The other two cabs are based at the Premier Garage at Woodward and Grand River, and passengers are given tours of downtown or ferried from one point to another.
As to rates, Rosemond said that if a destination is within walking distance — especially if it’s a family or senior citizens taking the pedicab — the driver just asks for tips. But if someone wants a tour of downtown or to go bar hopping after a game, then the driver would charge a certain amount.
It could range from $5 to $20, depending on the situation and the length of the drive.
People can either call for a ride or flag down a pedicab on the street. Rosemond said maybe 5 to 10 percent of passengers will get a booking for a tour of downtown or arrange to meet a driver after the game outside Tiger Stadium.
Rickshaw Detroit has also provided transportation at five or six weddings.
Rosemond brought one of his pedicabs along to the Sierra Club Green Cruise in Ferndale on Aug. 14. He got a wonderful reaction from participants.
He also liked the fact that the Green Cruise — now in its sixth year— emphasized human powered vehicles and the environment.
“The focus was green and is not a painful thing to think about, to work towards, to educate people about,” he said.
The passenger area of the pedicab is open, but it has a detachable surrey top to keep out the elements in inclement weather.
“It looks like the top they had on carriages back in the day, and on the Model T,” Rosemond said. “You just fold it up. And it totally protects the passenger.”
Within five years, Rosemond would like to have another four or five pedicabs, all operating in different parts of the city.
He would also like to expand into other communities. He has touched base with Birmingham and Royal Oak about operating pedicabs in those cities, but, as with Detroit, would have to go through their respective city commissions for approval.
In ten years, he plans to be retired, but believes the company itself will have expanded by then.