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Car-less and key-less means schmoozing in shotgun

In high school, I was the proud primary driver of a 1985 Oldsmobile station wagon. Naturally, the automobile opened me up to the good-natured teasing of friends, but such ribbing didn't bother me at all (well, it didn't bother me too much).

Whenever someone would make a comment about my rapidly aging motor vehicle, I would shrug and say, "At least I have a car."

Not only did I have a car at my disposal at all times, but I had a car that could haul me and seven friends wherever we wanted to go. Life with the '85 Cutlass cruiser was good.

As a first year, I followed the University's rule and arrived sans car. It was a bit of an adjustment, getting used to life without my own mechanized transportation, but since my peers were similarly situated, I learned to cope. If I needed to go somewhere, I walked or rode the bus. It wasn't such a big deal to be car-less. All I really needed was a decent pair of shoes or a bus schedule, a couple of like-minded friends and a destination.

By January of that first year, the quaint way of life to which I had become accustomed was forever changed. When the ban on cars for first-years was lifted second-semester, most of my friends acquired automobiles.

My beloved car never made it to the University. It was destined to remain at home, a possession of my newly licensed sister. With so many car owners around, it was difficult to find someone who wanted to schlep to the grocery store or take the bus to the mall with me. Everyone wanted to drive.

At first, this was fine with me. It didn't matter that I didn't have a car as long as my friends did. Riding shotgun wasn't so bad.

I'm not sure when the change happened, but sometime between then and now, being the perpetual passenger became a problem for me. My friends were incredibly nice and generous when it came to providing me with rides, but I hated feeling like a moocher. Continuously bumming rides off of people had taken its toll. Not only did I feel guilty that my friends always had to be responsible for transportation, but I also felt really constrained.

The freedom to come and go as I pleased was absent in my life. I couldn't help friends out when they were stuck or needed to get somewhere, and I couldn't volunteer for a whole host of activities in which I would have otherwise been interested. I lamented my lack of mobility to my roommate and primary source of transportation, Jen.

"If you're so upset that you have to walk everywhere," she said, "Why don't you get a bike?"

"Because," I whined, "I want to be able to give people rides and pick up groceries and stuff. It just wouldn't work to try to load bags or my friends on the back of a Schwinn. I need something with four wheels. Four wheels good, two wheels bad."

Jen shook her head and left me to consider everything. After a few days of careful deliberation, I was suddenly struck with the perfect solution to my problem: I would get a rickshaw. Cheaper than a reliable car with plenty of passenger/cargo space, a rickshaw was the answer to my prayers.

Finding a rickshaw vendor was surprisingly easy. The folks at Main Street Pedicabs, Inc. have a wonderfully informative Web site ( that took me only seconds to locate.

According to the company, "The Main Street Pedicab offers a comfortable, enjoyable and economical alternative to motor vehicles." I spent an hour perusing the various features my Pedicab could be outfitted with, and admiring the sporty look of the modern rickshaw. "What the heck is that," Jen asked when she saw me looking at the Web site.

"That," I told her, "is my Pedicab. It is how I am going to take people to the movies or grocery shopping. Isn't it beautiful?" I pointed to the bright yellow fiberglass passenger cab with steel suspension. "That's where you'll ride."

"I will never ride in that thing," she said. "You can't ride around Grounds on that. It's embarrassing. It looks like it belongs in a parade."

"It is not embarrassing. It's the coolest thing ever," I informed her. "It has a 21 speed drive-train with indexed shifting, a dual halogen headlight system, turn signals and a break light."

"What does that mean?" she asked.

"It means that for $3,300, I can have the coolest bike around. For $4,300 I can get one with a 36 volt, 400 watt hub motor so hills are easier. It means that I can finally be self-sufficient and offer people rides."

Jen laughed, "I'm still never riding in that thing."

Sadly, Jen wasn't the only one to express contempt for the Pedicab. When I brought up the subject, I was usually treated to a chorus of, "I wouldn't ride in that if you paid me." Some were supportive of my quest to pedal a Pedicab and said they'd be happy to take a ride from me. They did, however, express concern that I would have a hard time powering the 160-pound contraption with a couple of passengers in the back. Plus, they reasoned, I would have trouble finding an appropriate parking spot for my unique vehicle.

In the end, it was my father who shattered my hope of being the first of my friends to own and operate a rickshaw when he refused to finance my dream.

Now that the Pedicab is a thing of the past, I'm still wrestling with the issues attached to being one of the collegiate car-less. Sure, I'm usually seen cruising around Charlottesville in a car, but as usual, I'm always the one in the passenger seat.


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