U.P. Pedal Cruiser rolls into Marquette

Amanda Monthei

What began as a popular trend in European countries and, more recently, cities around the United States has finally made its way to Marquette: the pedal cruiser.


Since Tuesday, July 2 and the pedal cruisers official debut during the Marquette Fourth of July Parade, the Upper Peninsula Pedal Cruiser has accumulated 190 miles, according to driver Rigel Pihlainen, who helped get the pedal cruiser up and running with Checker Cab owner Jesse Schramm.

“I wrote a business plan for [the cruiser] as soon as I saw [the European models],” Pihlainen said. “I kind of put [the business plan] in the closet, didn’t do anything with it and then last year brought it out and wanted to see how it would work. This year we finally got another person involved with it and rolled it out during the Fourth of July parade.”

ihlainen said the European cousins of the U.P. Pedal Cruiser have specialized keg-holders in the front section of the vehicle, but that the American versions skip out on this feature, possibly because of stricter alcohol laws. In that regard, Pihlainen also said the cruiser can be enjoyed by anyone older than eight — so long as they can reach the pedals — and that the typical Pedal Cruiser crowd has been a pretty interesting assortment. KKpedal3

“When we first did this, I anticipated the college crowd, people anywhere from 21 to 27,” he said. “But now I would say probably more than half of our customers are in their higher 20s to mid 40s.

“Our oldest group was the Bishop Baraga class of ’63 high school reunion, and they were actually the best peddlers we’ve had,” he said. “But, we’ve also had a little league baseball team on here — there are no age restrictions. Basically, all the seats adjust and if you can fit on the seat and your feet touch the pedals then you’re fine.”

he U.P. Pedal Cruiser, which is provided by Checker Cab Company in Marquette, has been used for a number of special events, though the most notable for Pihlainen were a surprise engagement and a sunrise ride to Presque Isle for a TV6 special on the business and cruiser, as well as a special guest that received a quick ride while visiting Marquette in early August.

“When the governor (Rick Snyder) was here, we supplied it for him, so we had John Kivela on here, too,” Pihlainen said. “The community of Marquette has just embraced it. We thought it would go over well. We didn’t know how well and now it’s just taking Marquette like wildfire.”

hecker Cab mechanic and painter Alex Mowafy, who has been working on the pedal cruiser since before its debut in early spring, said the response to the pedal cruiser has been immensely popular, and that he doesn’t see it losing its popularity anytime soon.

“There seems to be a lot of chatter about it,” Mowafy said. “When we first got it out, all it took was one person to see and soon all their friends would know. It’s quite popular and I don’t think the concept is going to go south at all.”

owafy also emphasized that, while the perception is that the cruiser is used only for nighttime entertainment and transporting passengers to bars, it can be used for a wide variety of events.

“It’s not just targeted towards drinking and nighttime,” he said. “Usage is pretty versatile — we’ve even used it for a kid’s birthday once.”

ccording to Pihlainen, the U.P. Pedal Cruiser weighs around 1,600 pounds empty, and can fit up to 15 people, but has only 10 seats with pedals. He also said the vehicle is technically considered a bicycle, and as such can operate on bike paths or city streets alike. Pihlainen said it’s also necessary that drivers of the vehicle follow the same laws as cars on city streets, and the cruiser is equipped with headlights, turn signals and, of course, brakes and brake lights.


“We top out at about five miles an hour (on flat ground),” he said. “But going down a hill, this is 1,600 pounds empty. The brakes are car spec brakes, disk brakes up front, drum brakes in back. But a lot of people still ask, ‘Does it have brakes?’ which they ask me like as we’re going downhill.”

he vehicle also comes with a stereo and an electric motor, just in case.

“There is an electric motor, so the driver isn’t stranded if he doesn’t have pedalers,” Mowafy said.

ccording to Pihlainen, the warm months have drawn a lot of business — which he expects to increase with the arrival of NMU students — and he is anticipating that the Pedal Cruiser will stay in business until at least December.

ith events like sunrise, sunset and special holiday cruises, in addition to the list of reservations that already extend into November, he said he does anticipate cruiser operation through the winter.

“We’ll probably start doing a deal every weekend for as far as we can go into the winter,” Pihlainen said in regards to a new $10 all-night bar circuit deal, which only requires that riders get their hand stamped and that there is room on the cruiser at each bar stop. “Grand Rapids has one and they run theirs all winter long, so we’re going to see how far we can go.”

  • In case you were wondering: 
  • Bike weight: 1,600 lbs. empty.
  • Average bike speed while pedaling on flat ground: 5 mph
  • Age restriction: Eight and older, as long as riders can touch the pedals.
  • Where it rides: On city bike paths (with discretion) and, while street legal, will not be taken on busy highways or roadsides.
  • Who owns it: Checker Cab Company in Marquette
  • Number of seats: Ten pedal seats and an additional five seats that don’t have pedals.
  • Pricing for Sunday through Thursday: $150 per hour with a two-hour booking minimum or $20 per person for a two-hour ride if the maximum capacity of 15 people is reached.
  • Pricing for Friday and Saturday: $200 per hour with a two hour booking minimum or $27 per person for a two-hour ride if the maximum capacity of 15 people is reached.