CIW Co-op Member Robert Ashmore Brings Eco-Friendly Transportation to Chicago

CIW Co-op member Robert Ashmore has always loved bikes.  He grew up cycling around his hometown in Michigan and then, later, to college classes. But when he moved to Chicago, he was initially reticent to hit the chaotic city streets.  Then his car was stolen, forcing him to live the “car-free lifestyle.”
“[Chicago’s] a crazy place to ride, [but] it kind of put me right back into how I used to ride as a kid,” Ashmore said.

CIW Co-op Member Robert Ashmore takes Polish-made rickshaws to the
Chicago road with his pedicab company Roadiecab.

Over 5 years later, Ashmore’s passion for biking has taken him to Ireland, Poland and, more locally, Logan Square and Avondale, where Roadiecab, the pedicab company he runs, is based.  Ashmore started Roadiecab at the urging of a neighbor—and former Dublin pedicab driver—who described how pedicabs gave Dublin an inter-connected, community feel.  Looking to provide that same service to Chicago, Ashmore then traveled to Poland to buy a set of six hand-crafted pedicabs.
Today, Ashmore’s fleet takes individuals around all of Chicago, although he places a special emphasis on the use of pedicabs as transportation within hyper-local areas. His rickshaws give locals a green transportation option between local businesses, particularly in neighborhoods—like Logan Square and Avondale—where storefronts and restaurants are not densely populated. 
“People look at [pedicabs] as a one-time touristy thing, instead of using it to get around your neighborhood,” he said.  “These are all challenges I knew up front.”
Ashmore’s belief that pedicabs should be used as an everyday means of transportation makes him especially wary of recent regulations that will limit the number of pedicab licenses available in Chicago, place restrictions on pedicab use along Michigan Avenue and implement insurance and other regulations on pedicab drivers.  As a part of the Chicago Pedicab Association, he’s pushing back against these strict measures.
“It would be one of the most restrictive [ordinances] within the nation.  There aren’t many cities that say we don’t want eco-friendly bike transportation in our neighborhoods,” Ashmore said.
In the meantime, Ashmore plans to expand Roadiecab’s impact on Chicago’s neighborhoods through strategic collaborations with groups such as the CIW Co-op.  Roadiecab supported a Beauty & Brawn Gallery event put on by CIW Co-op member and Beauty & Brawn Founder Lindsey Meyer.  More recently, he has placed an emphasis on hiring Chicagoans with criminal or other negative histories who have a difficult time on the traditional job market.

“Hearing other’s stories at the first few 2013 Co-Op events of how they have incorporated job rehabilitation into their recruitment and policies by being open to hiring those with felonies and other negative histories hit a nerve with me,” he said via e-mail. “That was one of the biggest learning and growth experiences related to my participation in the Co-op.”

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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