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Watch your back, Venice

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A new pedicab service wheeled into Western Montana this summer. Its name: Garden City Gondola. Its slogan: “Floating the streets of Missoula.”

“I believe in sustainable transportation and wanted to promote a fun new option for sightseeing, shopping, and other short trips,” explains proprietor Jonas Ehudin. “Pedicab service is a natural for Missoula because we are a bicycle-friendly community.”

Modeled on the three-wheeled becaks (bay-chalks) ubiquitous in Southeast Asia, Garden City Gondola’s fleet of one consists of a cushioned cab supported in front by BMX wheels and propelled from behind by half a standard mountain bike. With this setup, says Ehudin, “I can climb hills pretty easily and get up a healthy cruising speed.”

The vehicle combines the mobility of a bicycle with the comfort of a couch. Side mirrors let passengers enjoy the stares of retreating pedestrians while lights announce their presence to oncoming traffic. An elegant canvas awning provides shade from the sun. A cargo area carries belongings. Safeguarding against sudden stops are a ruby red seatbelt and bright blue front bumper.

“A typical ride is from anywhere downtown to anywhere else downtown,” says Ehudin. “I’m out weekend evenings, at Out to Lunch and Downtown Tonight, and sporadically throughout the day.” Rides cost $3 per person or $5 for couples.

The 30-year-old hopes to expand his service through chartered events. “I do weddings, birthdays, Osprey games,” he says. He takes tourists through the University and nature types to Greenough Park. A romantic sunset river cruise carries couples along the river trail to the California Street pedestrian bridge. On request, Ehudin serves coffee, tea, cold drinks, or a complete picnic meal.

As much as for any potential profit, he started the business to “share an experience,” Ehudin says. “As the movement for ‘roads for all modes’ gains momentum, I hope Garden City Gondola and other human-powered enterprises can play a part.”

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