Columbus is rolling toward a new type of architecture tour, and it’s one that involves pedals and pints.
The city council approved an initial reading of an ordinance last week allowing the use of pedal cabs on downtown streets.
A pedal cab is defined by the city as a registered vehicle, either motorized, motor-assisted or propelled solely by human muscular power, designed to travel on two or more wheels and be operated by one person to guide it in the right direction. One or more persons can ride on seats or a platform and assist in propelling the vehicle with pedals.
Ashton Wischmeier, co-owner of Pedal Pub Bloomington, approached the city in December 2018 about bringing his business to Columbus. Through Pedal Pub, up to 16 passengers can pedal a large trolley-like bicycle around to local bars and other areas of interest while a designated driver steers the vehicle and controls the brakes.
While alcohol is not actually sold on the vehicle, each rider is permitted to bring up to 32 ounces of their own alcoholic beverages in a non-glass container. As long as only the passengers on the bike consume alcohol — not the operator — there would be no violations of the state’s open container laws.
Section 9-30-15-3 says that Indiana’s open container law does not apply to a container possessed by a person who is not the operator of the motor vehicle and is in the “passenger compartment of a motor vehicle designed, maintained or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation,” according to the Indiana Code.
If Pedal Pub does add Columbus to its growing list of more than 50 cities that it serves, Wischmeier said the company would partner with the Columbus Visitors Center to take riders on architectural tours throughout the city.
“We are nothing like any of the other operations in the nation with our demographics,” Wischmeier said, referring to similar companies that do serve alcohol on their pedaled vehicles. “We are 99% focused on the architectural aspect. Columbus, I’m basing 80 percent of our budget off revenue from architectural tours.”
Karen Niverson, Columbus Visitors Center executive director, said in an earlier interview she looks forward to adding a new type of tour in addition to the city’s current bicycle architectural tour routes.
“From the Visitor Center’s perspective, any tourism amenity that helps build our destination is a real positive,” Niverson said. “A new experience that we can market to visitors is always welcome.”
No definitive routes, prices nor hours of operation for the Pedal Pubs have been disclosed yet, but if it’s approved on its final reading, the company would work with the city engineering department and the Columbus Police Department to determine routes. The routes must be approved by the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety. Parking regulations will also later be determined, but the vehicle operator must comply with all parking rules and regulations set by the city.
In Bloomington, prices range from $20 to $30 for an individual seat on the trolley-like bike or $400 to reserve an entire bike for a private tour of 8 to 16 people.
Wischmeier said he has been working with Niverson and the Visitors Center to create talking points about each architecture stop so each driver is knowledgeable about the architecture on the tour. Similar to a trolley, the bikes will have speakers so passengers can hear the driver.
The bikes are 16 feet long, approximately 9.5 feet tall and weigh just over 1 metric ton, Wischmeier said. Riders must be at least 18-years-old. Each bike has 10 pedaling seats, but fit up to 16 passengers. Eight are required for a tour.
All pedal cabs must be registered with the city and maintain a reasonably clean condition free of things like litter, dirt, rust, graffiti and deteriorating paint. Both the right and left sides of the pedal cab must also have a sign with the company’s full name and telephone number of the registrant.
Vehicle operators must have a valid ID and possess no felonies. They will go through a nearly two-month training process to learn how to operate the bike and deal with intoxicated passengers.