If you’ve spent an evening in downtown Kelowna recently, you might have seen a somewhat strange sight: a lad (or lady) pulling passengers down the street, almost like a horse in bridle, in a bright red, two-wheeled contraption.
The contraption is a rickshaw, and the runner will have been from Last of the Old Kind, a newly arrived rickshaw company in the city.
Dyand Sagar and Franziska Fischer are the couple at the head of the business.
LATOK is already a staple on the east coast, having operated in Halifax for about five years. Now, the pair have brought the idea to the streets of Kelowna and are in the process of building a team of rickshaw runners to hit the streets this summer.
“Usually when people jump in a rickshaw the first thing they do is pull out Snapchat or Instagram,” Sagar says.
That novelty and uniqueness that LOTOK is selling.
LOTOK was born in a city famous for its busking culture, and much of the business reflects that fact.
While a rickshaw ride will get you from Point A to Point B, Fischer points out that just getting around really isn’t the point.
“It’s about making it an experience. How you get there doesn’t matter, as long as everyone has a really good time,” she says.
Depending on which LOTOK runner picks you up, that experience can change significantly.
Sagar likes to flirt and joke with his passengers; Fischer, who appears small in stature, often ends up dragging two or three giant dudes through the streets; another of their runners just blazes through the streets, running as fast as he can.
The runners are all in tip-top shape, and the most adventurous of them will pull their passengers along as they run up walls, do giant lifts, or even walk on their hands. Usually, there’s also music, some playful banter, and shouts from people on the street.
“It’s entertainment. It’s not so much transportation as an event in itself,” Fischer says.
The runners all rent the rickshaws from LOTOK, and make their money off donations from their passengers.
That model, Sagar says, actually ends up working a lot better than a set rate (like you would see in a taxi) because passengers wowed by the experience of a rickshaw ride are usually happy to shell out a little extra.
Saar explains that when he tells his passengers he works by donations they usually immediately think of a number in their head.
“Then I get them in, and I tell some jokes, and they’re laughing. Then I lift up the rickshaw. Then I put on their favourite song, so now their song is playing. Now I go and run up the wall…and they’re super excited. So you drop them off and they think, that was worth way more than I thought.”
At the end of the day, however, Sagar says he’s not really in it for the money.
“I don’t really do it for the money, I just do it because it’s a lot of fun,” he says.
Right now, LOTOK works primarily at night, catering to the bar scene. However, they say they will soon start running in the daytime as well.
Along with traditional place-to-place runs, they are also putting together several different rickshaw tours of the city. More information is available on LOTOK’s website.
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