The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
New business idea has legs
Brent Brady envisions seeing people tour Fredericksburg aboard a 16-seat human-powered vehicle he has dubbed PedalFred.
The bicycle-like vehicle known as a “pedal cab” is the latest tourism twist for Fredericksburg and one the downtown resident is launching with a friend from his college days.
Brady and John Brumbaugh, who lives in Pennsylvania, started Blue & Gray Leisures LLC, and hope to begin offering tours on April 15.
In addition to daytime heritage tours, Brady plans to offer special events such as exercise-themed rides in the mornings and business-focused events in the evenings such as a tour of restaurants or real estate. He also plans team-building rides for businesses or groups.
He will launch PedalFred with one vehicle and hopes to add a second one in the fall.
Brady said he waited to order the first pedal cab until City Council approved his plan. He got that Tuesday night, after
a public hearing. The council unanimously gave the go-ahead for a one-year franchise that begins March 1. A yearlong permit is typical for new city franchises.
Councilman Fred Howe was among those applauding the idea after getting a satisfactory answer to his one concern: the impact on traffic.
“I think it’s long overdue and a great addition,” Howe said, noting that he’s seen similar vehicles in Charleston, S.C.
Karen Hedelt, Fredericksburg’s director of economic development and tourism, told the council that the city police department reviewed and accepted the plan. She also noted that the city already has horse-drawn carriage rides and a trolley, both of which can slow traffic on downtown streets.
She said in an interview that residents have been accepting of those vehicles.
“Being a tourism city, people are accustomed to it. And, knowing how important they are to our economy, they kind of embrace it,” Hedelt said.
The franchise agreement authorizes the city manager to disapprove routes or schedules that he deems would disrupt traffic. The city also must sign off on the rates for the pedal cabs. Those have not been set yet.
Brady said he plans to employ 10 to 20 people, including support staff. At least five of the employees would be tour guides licensed by the city after written and oral exams on local history and attractions.
The city will collect personal property tax on the pedal cabs as well as a 5 percent commission on tickets purchased at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center. The commission collected will be capped at $30,000 annually. When not touring, the pedal cab will use the group tour bus parking in the 100 block of Charlotte Street the first year. That location will be re-evaluated after completion of the city’s new courthouse.
PedalFred is expected to have additional pickup and drop-off points in the city.
Brady said pedal cabs similar to what he’s going to operate are in use in about 100 locations across the country, including in Arlington County, Philadelphia, Denver and Cleveland.
His long-range goal would be to expand to other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, but the initial focus is on the operation here.
“Our plan always was to make sure Fredericksburg is successful before we move,” he said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
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PedalFred will use a 16-seat vehicle that 10 of the riders will power with bicycle-style pedals.
One seat will be in front for the tour guide and three will be on a bench at the rear. The others will be in the middle, six to a side facing each other. Ten of those 12 will power the vehicle with their legs.
The pedal cab also has a 48-volt electric motor that will enable the tour operator to move it when passengers aren’t on board or when it travels uphill.
The company’s website—Pedal Fred.com—should be operational within a month, owner Brent Brady said.