published Monday, October 24th, 2011

Pedal power - Buzz Pedicabs ply downtown Chattanooga

Christian Thorson, 51, co-owner of Buzz Pedicabs, cruises along Broad St. in downtown Chattanooga on the way to picking up a customer at the staging area in front of the Chattanooga Visitors Center
Christian Thorson, 51, co-owner of Buzz Pedicabs, cruises along Broad St. in downtown Chattanooga on the way to picking up a customer at the staging area in front of the Chattanooga Visitors Center
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Street lamps illuminate bright yellow trikes as they share downtown Chattanooga's tourist-laden streets with horse-drawn carriages and motor vehicles in search of parking.

As area employees begin their Friday commute home, Christian "Thor" Thoreson and his crew of cabbies are just starting the busiest part of their week.

"I was working too much and not riding enough so I had to figure out a way to ride more," Thoreson, co-owner of Buzz LLC, said about his newly established pedicab business.

The fleet of six bikes with the bumblebee graphics hit the streets in February.

The 51-year-old Chattanoogan is no stranger to alternative jobs. Thoreson spent 17 years teaching hang-gliding as the flight school director at Lookout Mountain Flight Park, in addition to managing an IHOP before starting this business of his own.

"This is just so much more relaxed and enjoyable," Thoreson said. "It's awesome showing the tourists our city."

When asked about the details of the yellow behemoth, he rattles off a list of features on his pedal-powered taxi: running lights, turn signals, a 21-speed drivetrain and a retractable roof, among others. Needless to say, the fully loaded rig takes a healthy individual to propel it.

"With a driver, the bike and passengers, you're toting around 700 to 800 pounds," Thoreson said.

In addition to that heavy load, the steep hills surrounding the Bluff View Art District -- one of the company's most popular routes -- make for a difficult trip. Not all the drivers can do it, so Thoreson has them practice the hills between customers.

There is no fare for the short route service; the ride is free aside from a tip for the driver.

In addition to the taxi service, Buzz Pedicabs also offers two tours including a 90-minute city tour and a three-pub tour with spirits included. These bring in a small amount of money, but advertising provides the main revenue for his venture.

Thoreson can be found parked outside the Chattanooga Visitors Center most weekends and plans on continuing the service throughout the winter. He and his crew are always looking for fit individuals to join the staff.

He said he doesn't know where the business idea came from.

"I just wanted to bring pedicabs to Chattanooga to increase the coolness factor, and we've done that."

MOMENT is a weekly column by the Times Free Press photo staff that explores the seldom-told stories of our region. To hear this story in their own words, go to www.timesfreepress.com/moment.

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