Pedal power: Pedicab driver earns his living on the streets of downtown Orlando

Before earning his living with pedal power, Luke McHenry was like most people, he never gave much thought to the guy on the bicycle with a trailer behind him. But after losing his graphic designer job in 2008 during the recession, McHenry needed to find a way to support his family, so he answered a job advertisement on Craigslist, bought a bike and starting pedicabbing.
McHenry is now the owner of Rydes Pedicab Co., which he operates out of a small warehouse on State Lane in downtown Orlando, providing him close proximity to Amway Center, the downtown bars and annual events such as the Fringe Festival.
When he first started pedicabbing, McHenry didn’t know what to expect.  “I didn’t know if it was going to be a humiliating job. I didn’t know if it was going to be demeaning. I really believe that a lot of people think we are one step above people sleeping under a bridge.” His biggest concern however, was how to provide for his family.  What he did know was that he was probably going to “work his butt off,” work late, and be tired at the end of the day, really tired, despite the comments from some for him to get “a real job.” But, he says, your body adjusts, if you’re mentally strong enough.
After three years on the streets, McHenry has plenty of stories to tell, but what happens in the pedicab, stays in the pedicab.  He will admit his favorite group of concertgoers were, much to his surprise, those attending the Barry Manilow concert. “The crowd was great.  The money was great. I had no idea of the demographic that was coming out, but those ladies had a great time.  They were generous and friendly.  Sometimes, REALLY friendly.”
McHenry knows that nobody really needs to ride in a pedicab. It’s a luxury.  “It would be cheaper to take a taxi cab, but the experience is much better in a pedicab.” He’s picked up everyone from Shaquille O’Neal to women with broken heels and a few too drunk to walk.  Everyone always asks “Is it hard?” “Are we heavy?”  It might be both, if Shaq is in back. Follow Gary W. Green on Twitter @garywgreen. Like us on Facebook: Orlando Sentinel Photography.

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