View from the Trike Lane: Interview with Pedicab Driver Gregg Zukowski
This is the first in a series of interviews with professional trike operators. Gregg was an easy target, since – when he’s not triking – he sits at the desk next to mine. Stay tuned for more chances to meet the brave souls who earn their keep in the trike lane.
Where are you from originally?
How long have you lived in NYC (or the NYC area)?
When did you start riding a pedicab?
What got you started?
I had some time between freelance editing gigs and I’d always pursued ways to make money cycling. I was a bicycle messenger in the mid-nineties and delivered papers when I was in middle school.
What do you do besides pedicab?
I run Revolution Rickshaws, a passenger and mini-freight services company in Manhattan.
Do you ride in Central Park, on the streets, or both?
What do you like most about pedicab riding?
I like proselytizing and converting gas-guzzling taxi customers into exuberant enthusiastic eco-taxi customers.
What do you like least?
The physical toll: dehydration, dietary challenges – eating enough calories, eating the right type of calories.
What strategies do you use to get yourself out of the doldrums?
I tell people I’ll do a ride for whatever they want to pay – normally it might be 20 or 25 bucks but whatever you want is okay. Sometimes I even go to crosstown bus stops.
What’s the best fare you’ve ever had?
A $1000 shopping tour and adventure with two truckers and their wives from Houston, Texas, during the December 2008 holiday season, over two days. It was a two-pedicab ride. Joe (of Trike Taxi) sold the two couples on it at as he and I sat arguing about pedicab issues on 42nd St at 7th Ave. Quite a turnaround!
A few months after I first started, I allowed a drunk doctor to get in the saddle of my pedicab as we proceeded from the Boathouse down 5th Ave toward Midtown – and he proceeded to pedal recklessly through traffic, scraping the paint off the side of an automobile from front to back at one point. I had to stop the trike by jamming my feet on the wheels, and I ended up burning the skin on my legs just to get the trike to a halt. He wouldn’t stop! Lucky for me, the woman in the automobile was so scared that she drove off instead of filing a claim. Never forgot that one….
What quality does a person absolutely have to have – besides physical fitness – to succeed as a pedicab driver in Manhattan?
Ability to identify potential transport customers in a flash, tune into the particular customer’s needs, and answer objections until the sale is made – so salesmanship, I suppose. Also, street savvy doesn’t hurt.
What advice would you give to a beginning driver on how to sell rides?
Again, tune relentlessly into the customer’s needs – not the service you think you’re selling. And learn to go with the flow initially – come up with quick responses to spurious objections such as “I’m going too far,” and other bits you’ll hear thousands of times.
What’s your stance on requiring pedicab drivers to quote a fare up front?
Always best, and if you choose not to quote up front, then be ready for the consequences when you reach your destination – the customer may not see the value proposition the same way you do.
Gregg’s passenger films him as he drives through Midtown….
If I can find the video someone shot of Gregg pitching the Penn Station line, I’ll post that too!