Nason Williams and Randall Roberson believe pedal power is going to revolutionize Oxford transportation. Their vision is a tricked-out bicycle called a pedicab. They say their fleet of specially outfitted five-passenger bikes will significantly relieve some of the chronic traffic and parking problems that have frustrated Oxonians on recent football weekends.
“We’re planning a fleet of eight pedicabs and we want Oxford to know that these vehicles are highly safe, equipped with seatbelts, head and tail lights and 10 times the insurance coverage mandated by the city for public transportation,” explained Williams. “Our drivers will be background-checked and complete a special training class. It’s virtually impossible for these bikes to tip over and their turning radius is far smaller than a normal bicycle.”
The Ole Miss grad says he and his partner (another Ole Miss alum) got the idea at the Ole Miss, Texas game in Austin. They observed Texas’ 100-bike operation in action. “I said to myself this system is working beautif ully. Why can’t we bring the same fun, environmentally sound transportation service to Oxford, where everyone concedes traffic and parking are a real problem,” Williams wondered.
Pedicab’s service territory will be targeted on the Ole Miss campus, the square and adjacent streets. Cost will be an affordable $3 per passenger. The vehicles won’t operate on Jackson or on any street where speed limits exceed 35 miles per hour, but they will run 365 days a year.
“Our intent is not to be a taxi service to take people to their subdivisions,” Williams said. “We will greatly enhance transportation between the campus and the square, but we also think our historical tours, which we’re developing with the help of Ole Miss professor and historian David G. Sansing, will be a great hit. Traffic congestion will always be a problem on football gamedays as 60,000 to 70,000 people try to leave at the same time, but for people who aren’t parked on campus, we can definitely improve their experience in getting back to their vehicles. ”
The eight-pedicab service, which Williams hopes to eventually triple, will handle parties up to 40. But the adaptable pedicabs will also be available for wedding parties, suitably decked out in white. Speaking of detailed pedicabs, Williams says three of Oxford’s fleet were used to transport actors in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. “In fact, if you look closely, you can see a bit of the red simulated blood near the wheels of the re-painted black bikes,” Williams said.
The bikes offer great opportunity for advertisers with wrap-around, large-image visibility on the easily spotted bikes.
If you’re thinking this efficient, green transportation sounds like a no-brainer for Oxford, Williams and Roberson agree, but first they have to convince Oxford city officials. They’ll propose a new ordinance at the next meeting of the Board of Alderman to change the regulation that requires drivers to have a commercial driver’s license. Williams believes politicians and police officials are receptive to the benefits of pedicab, and that approval will be expedited.
Deployment of pedicabs by the Arkansas game might be possible if the city declares approves the plan under emergency measures. Given recent problems and the suspension of the Rebel Ride service, Williams thinks early authorization is justified. If not, the Jackson-based entrepreneur believes the Missouri game is a realistic goal.
“We simply see no down side to this proposal and the enthusiastic embrace of pedicabs,” Williams said. “Young people, especially college students will find relatively good-paying part-time jobs as drivers, and we think the bikes could become an Oxford institution.”