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Tired? Romantic? Drunk? Rickshaws Are Here

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This summer, back in Richmond, MacPhee noticed the throngs of people strolling the sidewalks of Carytown. Sparked by the prospect of earning some cash, she called her boss and asked to help expand his business to Richmond. He agreed, and sent some of his bikes here to test the Richmond market.

MacPhee started recruiting her friends as riders and getting her father to help repair the bikes. Organizing the business was not easy, she says. To advertise, the riders posted fliers everywhere. Then MacPhee received a call from a city official, saying the ads had to be removed; all the riders hustled to avoid the $50-per-sign fine.

River City Rickshaw caters mostly to locals looking for a scenic and environmentally friendly ride, MacPhee says. Rickshaws run Wednesday through Friday from around 8 p.m. — for the dinner crowds — to around 2 a.m. — to get the bar crowd home. Saturdays and Sundays, the riders work from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Customers can call ahead for a pickup, but like a taxi service, the riders can be hailed on sight.

The job is not for the weak. Each bike weighs 150 pounds. Add that to two to three riders, and the result is a physically demanding job. Riders cross their fingers hoping for a few lightweight females, MacPhee says, but usually they get “big guys who need a ride from the bars.” But MacPhee says her riders love the job — it pays well, they meet interesting people, and they get a great workout.

MacPhee says the business plans to run until the beginning of November, when the riders will take off until Thanksgiving. Then she hopes to be ready for the holiday season. Canopies are coming in, and MacPhee wants to try a Christmas-lights tour, keeping customers warm with hot chocolate and blankets. River City Rickshaw can be reached at 307-3947. — Kelly Shaw

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