Key West, FL

Woman goes to Florida to drive tourists around on a bike

M. Brown
Markus Spiske via Pexels

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

When we think of Florida, we think not just about hot weather, palm trees, and beaches, but we think of tourists. Tourists are continually flocking to the state of Florida and according to the Florida Review & Travel Guide, 2016 saw numbers reach nearly 113 million.

I once resided in Key West, Florida for several years. Key West is located off the southern tip of Florida and at the end of the Florida Keys island chain. Key West is 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, so bike riding around the island is extremely popular. According to the Key West Travel Guide, 4 million tourists visited the Florida Keys in 2016, and on any given day, there are typically between 10,000 and 15,000 tourists in Key West.  This compares to 29,000 residents of the island.  

That said, you can imagine the opportunities that are available on this small island for those who work in the hospitality/tourism industry.

This brings me to how one of my friends ended up making some money while living on this popular island destination. She was in the business of pedi-cabbing. Pedi-cabs are three-wheeled vehicles with a forward-positioned driver’s seat and seating cab farther back for two to four people. These vehicles are heavy, weighing approximately 300 pounds when empty, and can carry more than 300 pounds of passenger weight.

I have to admit that when my friend told me this was how she was going to be making money, I was skeptical. It appeared to be tremendously hard on the body. Physically grueling work for sure. Not only that, but my friend had to make conversation with the tourists who got on board and delight them with some Key West history as she rode them around the island.

I remember my friend making pretty decent money some days, and hardly any money the next. However, she loved the exercise this job provided as well as the social aspect of it, which her personality thrived on.

Per an article written by Brian Martucci at Money Crashers, pedi-cabbers exist in all kinds of places and countries for differing uses. In some countries, particularly in the developing world, pedi-cabs are an important part of regular transportation and serve as a viable alternative to public transportation. In North America and Europe, pedi-cabs have a smaller niche, catering mostly to tourists and revelers around conventions, concerts, sporting events, and nightlife.

And this is exactly what my friend was doing in Key West. At night, you could see the pedi-cabs lined up on the street, ringing their bike bells, and trying to entice tourists to hop a ride down to the beach or over to a popular nightclub.

I actually tried pedi-cabbing myself one fateful evening and I immediately struggled with how difficult it was physically. After only giving a couple of short rides to customers, which I could barely manage, I went home with spasms in my leg muscles! I sat in a hot shower for an hour with my legs throbbing.

After that experience, I had a new admiration for those people who take on the challenge of pedi-cabbing. It's not easy. It's intensely physical. And on top of that, you're both a conversationalist and a guide for the tourists on board your cab.

My friend had some pretty strong leg muscles after her season of pedi-cabbing, needless to say. Hats off to her for being able to stick it out. There were not a lot of women pedi-cab drivers at that time and she was one of the best.

If you ever go to Key West or anywhere that offers this mode of transportation and you happen to take a pedi-cab ride, make sure you tip and thank your driver. It's much harder than it looks!

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Host of The Pondering Stepmom Podcast. Writing about relationships, lifestyle, family & self-improvement.

California State

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