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Rickshaw-style bicycle cabs come to Logan Square

Here’s a unique new job opportunity: get paid for getting in shape. A new business in the Logan Square area, RoadieCab, pays bike riders to ferry passengers around. While peddling, riders work on their leg muscles, burn calories and increase their endurance.

RoadieCab bikes are not like the pedicabs seen in other Chicago urban areas, such as Wrigleyville and Navy Pier. Instead of sitting behind the driver, customers are given a clear view of the city in front while the driver peddles away in back. The cabs are 35 pounds lighter than the regular pedicab and are more maneuverable for the operator.

According to RoadCabs website, bike rickshaws brand new to the U.S. market following great success in many European cities. The handcrafted design for the rickshaw is from Poland.

“Most people said being in front and having the open sight lines there is a much improved experience since you’re not staring at someone’s sweaty backside,” said Robert Ashmore, the founder and owner of RoadieCab.

He has six bikes available and is working to build a crew to cover shifts on weekends and weekday afternoons.

“I’m looking for independent contractors to operate under my service umbrella,” he said.

He said drivers should have a customer service mindset. They range from students who attend schools downtown to parents and activists who have pedicabbed before, as well as former bike messengers. He encourages his contractors to use their personalities to create a unique experience on the job.

“They can build up a clientele with neighborhood investors and with Twitter,” Ashmore said. “They’re essentially running their own little business.”

Eric Van Orman is a new RoadieCab cyclist and says its one of the better jobs he has had. Coming from Wholefoods and office jobs, he says he doesn’t mind doing this job at all.

“It’s kind of like being the ice cream man. People enjoy the service, they’re in a good mood and it’s a pretty laid back job,” he said.

But he’s still getting to know the area, which is challenging when quoting customers.

One time it took him 40 minutes to take customer home.

“So far I’ve been misquoting fares like way under ’cause I don’t know where stuff is,” Orman said. “I ended up taking a girl all the way up to Broadway and Montrose and I only charged her $5.”

Despite the occasional travel mistakes, he says he enjoys being out in the sun and getting paid to exercise.

The bikes also serve customers in Avondale, according to the company website. The website said Ashmore is committed to using part of the company’s profits for good deeds.

RoadieCap asks its operators to donate $1 from each shift to the Corner Farm Chicago project, which provides mentoring programs to Chicago youth and fresh food donations to food pantries at Christopher House and Kimball Avenue Church.

RoadieCab matches the local operator donation to the Achiase Children Homes in Ghana, where over 30 children are sheltered, fed, clothed and educated. The home purchased farmland a few years ago and completed an addition to the school.

But not all residents think the new bicycle cabs are a good idea.

“I just feel it’s a bit gimmicky to Wicker Park and Wrigleyville. I moved to Logan to be in a more quiet area, but I guess at the same time it’s supplying jobs for people,” Logan Square resident Aaron Pitorack, 28, said.

As Ashmore builds his business, he said he is aware of the challenges ahead but is looking forward to the experiences.

“Every second, every shift, every ride is different,” he said.

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