Full disclosure: My house is pretty darn close to Lisbon’s Androscoggin River Trail. From an upstairs window, I watched the installation of the mechanically stabilized earth wall. I’ve inhaled the dust of the construction, and when the trail was finished, I put orange cones in my driveway to stop cars from turning around there. Maybe I’ve muttered “get out of my yard” under my breath.

I’ve also put in my share of miles on the trail, both on foot and by bicycle. When asked to write a story about the trail, I did have a moment of “ho-hum” until I figured out a new and exciting angle to the story.

Enter the pedicab. Some call it a “bike taxi.” I like to call it a rickshaw.

Built like a tricycle, the design morphed from the human-pulled rickshaws popular in Asian cities beginning in the 1880s. Today’s pedicab is a three-wheeled bicycle with a single drive train. A seat over the rear wheels can comfortably accommodate two passengers. Some pedicabs have motors to assist the driver; others are completely human powered.

Here in Maine, the pedicab hasn’t yet made it out of Portland. Joe Dunham-Conway runs Portland’s Flow Pedicab. In business for the second year, a big part of Flow’s business comes from tourism, especially the cruise ships that anchor in Maine’s largest city.

Yes, a rickshaw was just what I needed to liven up my Lisbon Trail experience.


When I contacted Dunham-Conway, he said he was happy to “travel . . . for events and benefits.” He was familiar with the area from teaming up with Kristen Short’s “Short Folks for Hope Foundation” and “The Vivian St. Onge Memorial Rickshaw Team.” Together, they enabled cancer warriors to experience the excitement of the Dempsey Challenge cycling event through the use of a pedicab.

I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was 5 or 6; how difficult could a pedicab be?

I met Dunham-Conway in Portland for a practice session. He said rickshaw life wasn’t for everyone; he only hired drivers who were “fun and energetic, enjoy hard work and the outdoors.”

I put on my best fun face and commented on how much I loved the fog surrounding the peninsula that day. I managed to pedal about half a mile on the Eastern Promenade Trail, approaching the ditch only once. Dunham-Conway took it all in stride and assured me it’s not uncommon for the first-time driver.

Dunham-Conway and I set a date and he agreed to trailer the pedicab to Lisbon’s trail.

But who would be my passengers? I asked a fellow writer, suggesting a crazy co-writing story scheme. I’d pedal, he would write. His response was something like “I would not ride in a rickshaw you were pedaling under any circumstances.”


Desperate, I reached out to my two favorite octogenarians, Mom and Dad (Helen and Herman). No idea I cook up is ever beyond the pale for them. They never tell me I’m eccentric, and they’ve happily ridden shotgun with me on more than one hare-brained scheme. And since there was no combustion engine involved, there was no chance of my father asking me “How fast are you going?”

The chosen day turned out to be one of the best spring days yet. Dunham-Conway and I had discussed the route and strategically decided I’d start behind The Big Dipper. That portion of the trail is downhill and then flat for at least a mile. I pedaled my parents for about 25 minutes in one direction and then returned to the trailhead.

As luck would have it, Lisbon Parks and Recreation Director Mark Stevens was inspecting the boat launch, and I pedaled him around the parking lot, extolling the virtues of the pedicab.

As they say “A good time was had by all.” (In my humble opinion.)

Note to fun and energetic entrepreneurs who enjoy hard work and like the outdoors: There could be a pedicab in your future. Hopefully all your riders will be as good as mine on that beautiful spring day on Lisbon’s trail system.

Julie-Ann Baumer peddles her parents along the Androscoggin River Trail segment of the Lisbon trail system in Lisbon recently. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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