Bars, Beavertails and hard bodies running the streets
TRACEY TONG/METRO OTTAWA
A sign of summer in the city, they’re as much a part of ByWard Market as bars and Beavertails.
Whether you love the sight of young, hard-bodied entrepreneurs working for a living or see their rickshaws as another obstacle in the already-packed market, just don’t feel sorry for the drivers.
“Some people feel bad for us,” said rickshaw driver Daniel Delisle. “Some people see us like slaves. But it’s not like that at all. Sometimes, when I’m pulling people and I get to a hill, people get off to help,” the Ottawa resident laughed.
“We’re athletes,” said Michael Maleszyk.
“Rickshawing has put me in a physical condition that I’ve never been in,” said the University of Ottawa student and long-distance runner. He’s more than doubled the distance he’s able to run since he began working for Ottawa Rickshaws in May.
“You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete,” said Maleszyk, but you do have to be in good physical shape to pull the 270 kilograms that rickshaws can hold.
Although he typically works 40 hours per week and up to 50 hours during special events, Maleszyk ran 17 hours straight on Canada Day alone.
He caters mostly to families and tourists during the day and “a lot of drunk people at night,” he joked.
Some view rickshaw rides as a tourist activity, but the drivers have a lot of local fares, as well, Delisle said.
“It’s a mode of transport, as well as a pleasure thing,” said Delisle, who started running rickshaws two months ago. “It’s more fun than taking a cab, but it can be practical. It can be superior to a cab. It’s really a more green option.”
Although running rickshaws can be lucrative, it can be unsteady, as well.
Still, there are lots of pluses to the job.
“I’m in the best shape of my life, and I meet so many people,” said Maleszyk.
He’s already looking ahead to next summer, when he’s considering starting his own rickshaw company in his hometown, Niagara Falls, Ont.
“I’ve been around tourists my whole life,” he said. “Rickshaws might do really well around the casino and the Falls.”
the long haul