FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — MacFawn's Green Rides has taken to the streets of downtown Frederick, offering tourists and patrons an unusual way to see the city.
Owned and operated by local brothers Kenneth MacFawn and Nick Lawrence, the new pedicab service features bicycle-drawn carriages that can either tour the downtown area or give tired walkers a lift to their next destination.
The service has been up and running since June, charging $2 per person for a quick lift or $1 per minute for a tour of downtown Frederick.
Similar to a traditional taxi service, pedicabs drive around the area and can be flagged down. But if patrons know they want a ride, they can text their location to (301) 246-2221. A text message will be sent to all drivers and the closest one will arrive.
MacFawn said the locals have responded enthusiastically to the new business.
"We've had a really positive reaction through the community," he said. "Just about everyone comes up and says what a great idea it is and what a cool concept, and that it's something neat to add to the tourism in Frederick."
The rides generally run from noon to midnight but MacFawn said if patrons are out and still need a lift, they'll sometimes stay in operation until 2 a.m.
The family-run business features four cushioned pedicabs, each of which can seat up to three people. Some also have canopies to shade riders from the summer sun.
MacFawn and Lawrence both graduated from Linganore High School and left Frederick to travel. When they returned years later, they both knew Frederick was an ideal area for such a service.
"We both have seen pedicabs a lot while traveling," Lawrence said. "I thought it'd work here with how artsy and environmentally friendly the area is."
"When I graduated, downtown business was maybe a tenth of what it is now," MacFawn said. "Downtown has gotten that much more hip and that much cooler. I thought it'd be a really cool concept to extend to different businesses already in existence."
It took the brothers more than eight months to get the business ready, applying for licenses and getting the bikes ready. MacFawn said even with all his planning, the first two weeks were unpredictable.
"I came up with the business plan eight months ago and basically every single thing I didn't think of, I had to add in. It's been an adventure."
Safety has been a priority for the company from the get-go. It's insured for $2 million and the bikes feature full turn and braking systems, complete with turn lights. All drivers are required to take a training class and have a clean driving record.
All of the drivers are local people, most of them home from college for the summer. For Michael Rosenberg, 20, MacFawn's has been a unique summer job.
"Last week, I picked up a mom and five little girls," he said. "She was looking to buy a house, so I drove her around the city. The whole time, all the little girls were yelling, 'Happy summer! Go green!' Everyone was honking and waving. They loved it. It's really good to be outside and get exercise, but rides like that are really what makes it worth it."
Locals said the service makes summer trips to downtown even more enjoyable.
"It was beautiful and comfortable," said Kathy Vanhart, a resident of Frederick who took a drive earlier this week. "I just laid back and enjoyed the breeze. The driver was very nice and talked with me. Everyone's got to try this. It's definitely worth $3."
Although MacFawn's is an eco-friendly option for those in the carriage, it's less ideal for drivers behind the cyclists. MacFawn said he hasn't heard any criticism from motorists, but he knows it exists.
"I've only heard a lot of the positive but I'm sure they're out there," he said. "I'd like to give them an invite to please talk to us about it if you have any suggestions."
Along with encouraging the public to be more green, MacFawn's is hosting a benefit for the Gulf of Mexico Relief Fund at the end of the month with Cafe Nola. All fares will be donated to the organization from July 24 to 25, and the service will hold a silent auction and benefit dinner with Cafe Nola on the 25th.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com