Starting Saturday, bikecabs, also known as pedicabs, will pedal paying passengers around the streets of Philadelphia.
Well, some streets. The first two operators - Velo-Park and Chariots of Philly - will initially deploy more than a dozen bikecabs to serve Center City, Northern Liberties, the Rittenhouse area, and around the Parkway. The sports complex, Old City and much of the historic area will be off-limits, as will such busy streets as Broad, Walnut, Chestnut, Market, South and Vine. Nighttime service also awaits future approval.
The firms displayed their very different models at a Thursday news conference outside City Hall, as speakers extolled an eco-friendly way to serve residents, workers and tourists while creating jobs.
"Bikecabs are fun, safe and reliable green transportation," and this "new industry ... moves Philadelphia along in our quest to be the greenest city in America," said Velo-Park owner Ronn Ash, who lives near Rittenhouse Square.
"It's going to create a new sector of jobs," said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, explaining that the licensed, insured, safety-trained drivers will have to show they know city history, just as tour guides do.
Shaped like a large lime-sherbet-colored almond with cutout sides and wheels, the Velo-parkcab encloses both the cyclist and a couple of passengers.
The Chariots of Philly model is like a open chariot - a cushioned seat between two wheels, pulled by a bicycle. Passengers have seatbelts, and helmets are provided for children, explained Roxborough-raised Tom Dambman, who co-owns the company with his brother Ben.
The cost for a leisurely ride, under regulations, will be $1 per person per block, with a $5 minimum.
No cab stands have yet been established, but that's a future possibility, Dambman said.
"We're trying to do this incrementally, and we're hopeful that within 60 days we'll have access to Old City," Ash said.
Although Thursday marked the legalization of bikecabs, Chariots of Philly operated unofficially in Manayunk from 2003 to 2006, then started serving Avalon, N.J.
Other bikecab companies are likely to open shop here, too, said Ash and Dambman, who said newcomers would be welcome to join their fledgling trade group, the Philly Bikecab Alliance. Ash is its president.
Bikecabs are also available for tours, group outings and special events, they said.