Resident hopes to start rickshaw business in downtown Lawrence, pending city approval

Think of it as a twist on the tipsy taxi.

Perhaps the ripped rickshaw?

Lawrence resident Shane Powers is hoping to open a rickshaw business in downtown by the spring, if he can convince city leaders to create a new ordinance that allows for such a business.

Powers believes there will be plenty of riders.

“Think about it, if you are at the Granada and you want to get to Quinton’s, that is a pretty good walk,” Powers said. “I think I could get some business out of that crowd.”

Powers also said the rickshaw — he plans to use a pedal-powered rickshaw instead of the more traditional rickshaw that is pulled by a person — would be available to take home late-night revelers as long as they lived near downtown.

But Powers said his customer base would go beyond the bar crowd. He said he’s working to develop a tour route that would take riders past several points of historic interest in downtown and through Lawrence’s older neighborhoods near downtown. On Kansas University home football games, he envisions taking people from downtown to the stadium.

“I think it will fit in great with Lawrence because it is really a green business,” Powers said. “And it is just fun and interesting. There a lot of people in Kansas who haven’t ever ridden on something like this.”

Powers — a student at Pinnacle Career Institute and a guitar instructor — came up with the idea after seeing several of the rickshaws or “pedicabs” operating on Austin’s popular Sixth Street.

Now, Powers has to convince city leaders that it would work in Lawrence. Scott Miller, a staff attorney for the city, said a new ordinance would have to be created that would allow the city to issues licenses to rickshaw operators.

“You want to make sure there aren’t any traffic problems caused by the activity, and that everything is done in a safe manner so that people who choose to ride in it have some reasonable assurances that it is safe,” Miller said.

Miller said he is currently researching how other communities — such as large cities like New York and smaller towns like Ashland, Ore. — regulate their pedicab industries. Miller said regulations likely would include making sure the rickshaws are properly marked to be seen at night and a requirement that rickshaw operators carry a certain amount of insurance.

Ultimately, city commissioners will make the final decision on whether to create the new city licensing process. Miller said he expects to have an ordinance for commissioners to review by early spring.

Powers hopes it comes sooner. He would like to open for business near March 1 to be ready to transport fans who flood downtown bars to watch the Jayhawks compete in the NCAA basketball tournament.