Josh Coles pedalling his way into history along historic downtown Charlottetown streets

UPEI history graduate launches pedicab business in Prince Edward Island capital city

Dave Stewart
Published on June 13, 2014

Josh Coles is going to be pedalling history in Charlottetown this summer.

The UPEI history graduate worked for the Confederation Players a few years ago, giving tours of the historic city as Father of Confederation George-Etienne Cartier.

Coles is trying to turn his passion and knowledge of history into a new business opportunity.

He went out and bought himself a bike rickshaw while city council amended its horsedrawn and rickshaw vehicle bylaw to include pedicabs like the one Coles operates.

“I’ve worked in the tourism industry in Charlottetown for a few years now. I really like bikes and this is something I’ve seen in different cities,’’ Coles said in an interview on Victoria Row where he waits for his next fare.

“I thought if there ever was an opportunity to do something like that in the city . . . There have been different kinds of rickshaws in the city but, as far as I knew, there was not going to be anything for this year.’’

And, with all the hubbub around the 150th anniversary celebrations this summer, he figured now was the time to start pedalling his talents.

He launched the business this week, the day following council’s vote. By mid-day, he had taken seven groups around town. Local residents have really taken an interest in his rickshaw idea.

“I took two ladies that had lunch on Victoria Row back to work at Holland College and they thought it was great. I think it will be aimed mostly at tourists but I think it’s a great opportunity for locals to enjoy the city as well.’’

While Charlottetown doesn’t have the hills that, say, Halifax does, pedalling with the weight of two or three passengers is going to make the legs burn a bit even for a good cyclist.

Coles is taking a train-as-I-go approach.

“I did this when I was living overseas for a couple of months when I was in France this year but those machines have electric assists and this one doesn’t. It will take a bit of practising to get going. I do some biking on my own, too, so that helps.’’

His rates vary depending on what the customer wants. A full hour for two people runs $50 but he offers shorter rides for $5 as well.

“I want to keep it affordable. I want locals to be able to do it and so far that’s been the case.’’

Following his gig with the Confederation Players and a stint last summer with the Harbour Hippo as a tour guide, he decided it was time to break out on his own.

“You can only work as a guide for minimum wage for so long before you want to start doing it on your own.’’

This isn’t just a summer job for Coles. Considering the growing number of cruise ships and the length of the season the pedicab operator intends to pedal right through to mid fall.

“Until it gets cold, say mid October.’’

Just the facts

- The rickshaw began as a two- or three-wheeled passenger car, called a pulled rickshaw, generally pulled by one man with one passenger.

- The first known use of the term was in 1887.

- Pulled rickshaws created a form of transportation and a source of employment for male labourers within Asian cities in the 19th century. Their popularity declined as cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available.

- Auto rickshaws are becoming popular in some cities in the 21st century as an alternative to taxis because of their low cost.

- A two-hour pedicab tour of Central Park in New York City costs $120 for an adult and $100 for a child.

Josh Coles is providing tours of Charlottetown on his new pedicab for the next few months. Coles portrayed a Father of Confederation a couple of years ago so he has a pretty good handle on history in the downtown.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel