Pedicabs are a common mode of transportation in many major cities and tourist destinations - but not on Nantucket.
Despite town regulations that were adopted by the Select Board more than 10 years ago to license and govern the operation of pedicabs on the island, no one has stepped forward with a viable plan to implement them on Nantucket.
That could change this summer. The Select Board on Wednesday will consider a proposal for a new pedicab business called “NanTukTuk” seeking to operate on the island. Michael Gormley, 24, a New Hampshire native who grew up visiting Nantucket, is the man behind the proposal.
“I want this to work for the town,” Gormley told the Current. “Nantucket is the perfect environment for pedicabs. I’m excited.”
Gormely said he operated a pedicab during his college days along the cobblestoned streets of Charleston, South Carolina, and enjoyed the experience. Last summer his grandmother was staying at a home on York Street on the island and she remarked to Gormley on how she wished there were pedicabs on Nantucket so she could get downtown without walking or taking a taxi. And so the seed for the NanTukTuk concept was planted.
After approaching the town with the idea last fall, Gormley was asked to submit a business plan to municipal licensing administrator Amy Baxter. That plan asserts that pedicabs will reduce vehicle congestion downtown and decrease impaired and reckless driving while providing “a novel, fun, safe, and immersive way to travel on-island.”
The bylaw adopted by the town in July 2011 governing the licensing of pedicabs on Nantucket also set strict limits on where they could be operated. The small portion of the downtown area and the cliff is bound by Main Street to the south, and New Lane and North Liberty Street to the west.
Those restrictions, Gormley said, are part of the reason why no one has proposed a pedicab business on Nantucket over the ensuing 13 years.
“They’re intense regulations, but I understand why Nantucket does need regulations,” Gormley said. “I’m in no way trying to fight those. I’m approaching it in a collaborative way.
Gormley said he is aware that there are already concerns that pedicabs would actually add to the summer gridlock on Nantucket. To those critics, he counters with the fact that pedicabs are roughly half the dimensions of a car, and will be able to maneuver the island’s narrow streets and cobblestones more effectively.
“To that point, I rode pedicabs in Charleston, they’re all across the country, and I’ve done a ton of research and spoken to many pedicab owners,” Gormley said. “Pedicabs are really quite favorable in these places. They’re proven to not add to congestion, and they’re half the dimensions of a car. They’re only going short distances as well.
“If cars are honking their horns at us and we’re holding up traffic, that's not good for the customers and not good for the town,” he added. “So I’m proposing a small number to start. The smallest amount to be economically viable is four pedicabs. But I’m anticipating they’ll only allow me two. With rent and storage and expenses, I’ll personally come out breaking even with that but I’m happy to make it a pilot and see. That’s the plan.”
In a memo to the Select Board regarding Gormley’s proposal, town licensing administrator Amy Baxter indicted that his initial plan included operating pedicabs beyond the area designated in the 2011 regulations.
“The applicant’s business plan appears to propose operations outside of the ‘Pedicab Service Area Map’ that was adopted as part of these regulations,” Baxter wrote. “The Board could amend the map. I would be hesitant to support any modification outside of very narrow lanes to traverse to the Milestone and Polpis bike paths or the Madaket bike path to facilitate transportation to Sconset and/or Madaket. Unless such an amendment was made, the proposal appears outside of what is allowed per the regulation. Currently such trips would be prohibited.”
The Select Board will not be voting on the proposal specifically during its meeting on Wednesday, but will rather be considering whether to hold a public hearing on whether to consider issuing the license.