Thanks to a change to an ordinance Thursday at the Gainesville City Commission meeting, there is a new way to get around town – and have some fun along the way.
The commissioners agreed to remove the four-passenger limit for non-motorized vehicles for hire. This allows for the legal operation of the “pedibus” – a multi-seat vehicle powered by the passengers pedalling. The operation must be in accordance of Sections 28-30 and 28-41 of the Code of Ordinances.
Amber Shelton, managing partner at Florida Fun Bikes, said their pedibus is equipped with 16 seats surrounding a bar and a place to put a keg of beer that runs up to a party tap.
She said they are working on partnerships with some stores around town to offer deals on kegs to their pedibus passengers. Customers purchase the keg, but Florida Fun Bikes will pick it up and return it when it’s empty.
“We’ll set it up for you and everything and do all of the dirty work,” Shelton said, “and then you just come party.”
Shelton said she plans to return to the commission next month to petition for the ability to have alcohol on board. The update to the ordinance Thursday allows them to operate, but does not allow passengers to bring alcohol on the pedibus.
“I think it’ll do really well here,” she said. “People like to tailgate, people like to have a good time, and there’s really no challenge to the open container law, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
City Commissioner Craig Carter, who facilitated the meeting as mayor pro tem in Mayor Ed Braddy’s absence, said a number of things must be considered in making the decision to allow alcohol on the pedibuses.
Carter said a lot of consideration will have to go into whether or not the commission will allow alcohol. He said they will have to check with the public safety committee, police officers and attorneys to make sure such an ordinance wouldn’t interfere with other laws.
“Because how do you distinguish from allowing alcohol on a motorized vehicle, even though it’s man-powered, versus a bicycle, or now a car?” he said.
Despite these obstacles, Carter said he’s excited for these new businesses. He said the commission wanted to get them up-and-running, even if the passengers must enjoy alcoholic drinks at the pedibuses’ destinations for the time being.
“I could see people, 10 or 12 of them, pedaling around and enjoying a cold beverage, be it a beer or a soda pop, and enjoying the tour,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it, actually.”
Carter said that allowing the pedibuses goes along with Mayor Ed Braddy’s initiative to make Gainesville citizen-centered.
Carter said that businesses like these could only affect the Gainesville community and economics in a positive way.
He said when people consider moving to Gainesville, they think about the life they will have here and the activities that are available. He said the pedibus might be something that people find to be cool.
“And if it brings one more person to Gainesville, there’s a positive impact on the economics,” Carter said.
Andrew Persons, principal planner at the City of Gainesville, said the two pedibus operations, the Spins and Florida Fun Bikes, first presented the idea to the community development committee late last year. He said they identified some of the limitations of the existing ordinances, so the committee recommended to the commission that the ordinances be amended.
Persons said the pedibus companies have taken the initiative to spread the word about their plans and form relationships with other local businesses.
“Both operators went to the Gainesville downtown business meeting and talked about their operation and got positive feedback about bringing tours and being able to stop at some local restaurants and bars,” he said.
Since the ordinance change is effective immediately, Shelton said Florida Fun Bikes will begin giving tours this weekend. Their official grand opening will be Thursday, Feb. 11.
She said the tours will be two hours long and will take passengers anywhere they want, from midtown to downtown, and bars and restaurants have signed on to participate. The tours will begin from their office at 530 W. University Avenue.