North Texas Daily

Day in the life…of a Denton pedicab driver

Day in the life…of a Denton pedicab driver

Day in the life…of a Denton pedicab driver
November 28
23:32 2012

Nadia Hill/Senior Staff Writer

Michael Tarleton and Ryan Sabine work the streets, soliciting their services to meandering pedestrians who can’t decide whether to walk, drive or take a cab. The two students bicycle from one end of the city to the other, chauffeuring passengers in an open-air carriage.

Tarleton, a mathematics senior, and Sabine, a Spanish junior, work as pedicab drivers at night for Denton Pedicabs.

They park themselves in busy areas and do whatever it takes, from using boom boxes and customized playlists to flirting with strangers, to convince passers-by to climb into their rickshawlike seats.

“It’s a confidence thing,” Tarleton said. “You have to be personable and get out there. If you just stand there, you won’t get anything.”

While Denton Pedicab doesn’t charge a flat rate for a ride, all the drivers work off tips. Over the course of four to five hours – a typical shift – drivers can make nothing or as much as $120. Tarleton and Sabine both say it varies night to night, making it a nice supplement to a job but nothing long-term.

“Many people try it and have potential, but it takes a while to get used to it,” Sabine said. “It pays off in the end, though. I can not ride for two weeks, pick it up and make money. It’s like riding a bicycle.”

Owner Laurent Prouvost requires eligible drivers to each pay $15 to use one of the cabs for the week. Once each driver pays Prouvost, they’re allowed to use the cab as many times as they want over the course of the week.

The cost increases if there is a football game or other big event in town, and the biggest nights are always Friday and Saturday.

“It’s more profitable to be free,” Prouvost said. “It’s part of the marketing. People will offer you more because you’re willing to sweat in front of them, and it’s an experience.”

Tarleton and Sabine said the physical requirements are not all that demanding, but usually drivers already ride bicycles extensively or enjoy being active.

This helps them get through the times when they’re exhausted at the end of the night or when someone can’t pay them.

“Sometimes I give rides for free just to get people interested,” Tarleton said. “There are times when people will trick you and give you nothing, but you also don’t want to turn anyone down. You just have to suck it up and do it.”

There are few out-of-pocket expenses in the pedicab business, but Prouvost and the drivers say their biggest challenges are usually with advertising.

Not many people are familiar with pedicabs or know where to find one. Because of this, companies like Denton Pedicabs are always expanding and looking for new ways to generate consistent revenue. Some of these include contract deals or simply having more drivers covering the city.

“People want to do something exciting,” Sabine said. “It’s an extraordinary way to spice up the night, and you’re making an entrance.”

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