Eric Green and His ‘Green Machine’ Are Giving Downtown a Lift

Eric Green pulls out of the valet driveway of Downtown's Sheraton Hotel, making his way onto Hope Street as more than a few curious glances are flashed his way.

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Published August 20, 2007 by LA Downtown News
by Kathryn Maese

Los Angeles– Eric Green pulls out of the valet driveway of Downtown's Sheraton Hotel, making his way onto Hope Street as more than a few curious glances are flashed his way.

The hotel doorman/entrepreneur nods politely to passersby, graciously allows cars the right of way and keeps up pleasant conversation as he passes the new Ralphs supermarket and turns onto Ninth Street.

But it's not a yellow cab he drives. Green uses manpower to fuel his pedicab, a smart-looking contraption that is part bike and part carriage, through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. Dubbed the "Green Machine," the moniker is a play on his last name, the vehicle's color and the fact that it's environmentally friendly.

Green's service is the first of its kind in Downtown. In just two weeks on the road, he's already getting plenty of attention from hotel concierges and bar managers eager to use the pedicab for their customers, as well as some bloggers.

Green, who has worked in the hotel industry all his life and is currently employed at the Sheraton, said he got the idea for a pedicab service from his customers.

"Hotel guests would come down and ask where is Windows restaurant and how do I get to Bunker Hill, and they would want to take a cab," he said. "I was putting people in taxicabs to go three or four blocks away. I started thinking there has to be a way to get people around locally that might be more fun. The idea was born and I started researching."

Green ordered the three-wheel bike-taxi from a manufacturer called Main Street in Denver, Colo. But don't think it resembles the 18th-century rickshaws still pulled by runners in Asia and Europe.

The $6,000 Green Machine is high-tech and top of the line, "the Cadillac of pedicabs," as Green likes to call it. Equipped with electrical lighting, turn signals and hydraulic breaks, it has a padded bench that can comfortably seat two – or three very slim – passengers.

With a 21-speed bike, drivers can easily maneuver traffic and pull up to 800 pounds. Green has yet to tackle the daunting Bunker Hill incline, though.

"It has an elegant look to it," Green noted. "I wanted the neighborhood and residents to be proud to have this thing going through their streets. A lot of these new high-rises and condos are on the pricey side, and I wanted to cater to this upscale clientele."

 
 

Filling a Short Void

Green works for tips, which typically range between $5 and $20, depending on the distance and generosity of customers.

As with pedicab operations in New York, Boston and San Francisco, Green hopes to fill a void for short distance travel that most cabbies don't like to take, and many people don't want to walk.

In Downtown, it's illegal to hail a cab on the street. Cabbies are required to pick up passengers in front of designated areas such as the 7+Fig shopping mall and at hotels. That could help Green gain even more traction.

"I want to eventually create a culture where it's the norm to hop in the way New Yorkers hop in taxis," Green said.

That may be a ways off. For now, Green is a one-man operation, and concentrates his efforts in the evenings and weekends, when patrons head out of bars, tourists break from the Convention Center and couples want a romantic tour of the city.

By year's end, Green said he plans to have a mini fleet of at least five pedicabs in Downtown. He will lease vehicles to drivers, allowing them to keep the tips. Green will act as the dispatcher.

For many emerging downtown areas, the devices have spurred nightlife and tourism. They've also helped ease parking and congestion. In downtown Long Beach, for example, the City Council voted to allow 20 pedicabs to ride the streets. It's been a boon for visitors around Pine Street and the Pike shopping area, as well as local office workers who take quick jaunts to meetings.

For Downtown Los Angeles, the concept could help boost the burgeoning bar and restaurant sector, which is attracting more people later in the evening.

"I think it'll be great," said Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District and the Central City Association. "The more fun ways to get around that we can incorporate into our plans, the better. As more clubs open up, and the Seventh Street plan gets going, this could be the perfect way to get around."

Still, Schatz said Downtown needs a more comprehensive way to move people around. She plans to meet with the Department of Transportation in an effort to allow pedestrians to hail cabs like they do in other cities.

In the meantime, however, Green and his unmistakable Green Machine are for hire.

For information or to reserve a ride, call (213) 590-0002.