By Cameron McPherson
Who has the best quad muscles in Richmond? There’s no scientific evidence, but it’s likely the dependable, customer service-driven crew at Spoken4. The team of cyclists is known for carting Richmonders around in the company’s environmentally-friendly and attention- grabbing bike taxis.
The brainchild of Richmond couple Katie Hurst and Kyle Langemeier, Spoken4 is the city’s only rickshaw bike taxi service, also known as pedicabs.
Why pedicabs? Hurst and Langemeier, who are frequent travelers to Charleston, S.C., where bike-taxis are a popular mode of transportation, believed the service would do well in Richmond.
“Pedicabs are all over Charleston,” Hurst says. “The feel is very similar between the cities. You don’t want to drive, but places are far enough that you don’t want to walk. We thought— why don’t we bring something cool and different to Richmond?”
They told their families about the business plan in May and opened Spoken4 in June.
Securing the cabs turned out to be the longest process. It was important to Hurst and Langemeier for the bikes to be American-made and found a company in California called VIP Pedicab.
Shipped across the country, the pedicabs came in two pieces, which Langemeier assembled. Before Spoken4 launched, the two would take the bikes out for test runs around Fountain Lake, eliciting smiles, curious looks, and questions from onlookers.
“We hadn’t done any marketing yet,” Hurst says. “It was funny because everyone looked at us like we were in some sort of parade.”
The pedicabs, which can seat up to five people, have received positive feedback from Richmonders looking for a new way to get to their favorite restaurants, hangout spots, and festivals.
“It’s really fun and a different way to experience the city,” notes Hurst. “Because it’s open air and you’re not moving as fast as a car, people notice different buildings and sites they didn’t notice before.”
The service is focused in the city of Richmond—from Carytown, through the Fan and into Shockoe Bottom. Spoken4 is open Tuesday to Sunday but may tweak the schedule based on need as colder months approach. For those weary of the winter weather, Spoken4 plans to add wool blankets so riders can stay warm.
In addition to its regular schedule, Spoken4 has participated in several special events, including the getaway vehicle complete with “Just Married” signs for a bride and groom after their wedding. The Virginia Book Com- pany hired Spoken4 to give VCU students free rides around campus on move-in day.
The company offers advertising space on the back of the pedicabs. So far, the Richmond Flying Squirrels and American Family Fitness, as well as others, have taken advantage of this mobile advertising.
People can hail the Spoken4 pedicabs by calling or texting 804-525-0532, or through Twitter at @RideSpoken4. Rides cost $5 per person for every 10 minutes on the bike.