Pushing Pedals In The Land of Strawberry Fields

The Observer Investigates the Ups and Downs of Life as a Pedicab Driver in New York City


(Gane/Flickr Creative Commons)


(Gane/Flickr Creative Commons)

Of the thousands of faces I have seen, not a single one stands out. When I try to think back on all the people that have flitted in and out of my vision as I scurry about the city, there is only a blur: drumming fingers, flickering eyelids and bursts of raucous laughter. My memory is merely a collection of broken noises, smells and colors. Yet the fleeting moment in which you come into contact with a stranger can be a beautiful thing; in that quick instance, we are exactly who we are, and they are exactly who we want them to be. However, eventually there comes a point when even surrounded by people, it is easier than ever to feel alone. Of the eight million people that make up New York City, our most common relationship with each other is that of a passerby.

My mission was to take a look into the daily life of a pedicab driver, someone who makes a living from interacting with strangers. It was with that aim in mind that I strode eagerly to Columbus Circle, toward the entrance of Central Park to approach one of the 800 pedicab drivers in the city.

After a few minutes of walking, I finally spotted a guy. What made him seem so approachable? It’s difficult to pinpoint. Maybe it was the words on his T-shirt, “PWN OR BE PWNED. IT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE,” that drew me in.

After spewing out my standard blurb on my intents and purposes there, I anxiously awaited his reply. Although hesitant at first, he nonetheless agreed to let me interview him. I hopped in his pedicab and we set off rolling. Meet Bojan Micic, everyone. Pronounced “Boi-YAN MEE-chee-ch,” the name is as intriguing as the man it belongs to.

Originally from Serbia, Micic came to New York a couple years ago with a thousand bucks in his pocket and a handful of contacts in New Jersey. His intent, simply put, was to live his life. It wasn’t his first time in the Empire State, however.

He found his current job as a pedicab driver through friends, and according to him, the perks are plentiful. “This is the option to see a little bit, to have your own time,” he said. Hours are flexible as well.  “It depends, but let’s say, from six to seven hours up to 20 hours. [Twenty hours] happens from time to time, on Halloween, for example,” he said. He meets people from all over the world, most of whom he finds to be nice people. However, not every customer is a good customer.

One of the worst experiences that has stuck in his memory involves pedaling 70 blocks for a passenger who proceeded to leave without paying a single penny. “I had finally got him to 32nd and 7th, and he stood up, and just went away. He didn’t want to pay. He was a big guy, and I’m not quite small, but he was bigger than me. I ran after him, [and] I called the police. The police asked, ‘Who is that?’ and I  said, ‘Pedicab driver.’ They were just like, ‘Oh, ok.’ Nobody takes it seriously,” Micic said. Even after the police were involved, the man still claimed to have no money or identification on him, and was released. It seems that the police rarely take the grievances of pedicab drivers into serious consideration. Furthermore, pedicab drivers deal with the horse and carriage guys, rangers, and the DCA (Department of Cultural Affairs) on a daily basis. “Nobody likes us,” Micic said.

There are many restrictions and guidelines that need to be followed as well. If one is not careful, it’s very easy to to get fined for broken equipment. Micic remembered a man who was fined $3000 for broken brake lights.

To put it all into perspective, however, he said, “Sometimes you get terrible experiences and sometimes you get wonderful ones.”

His own aspirations in New York City? “Whatever I do, I’m trying to be happy,” he said.

In the midst of vying for an internship, keeping on top of schoolwork and working, this outlook on life was a much needed reminder for me.

Speaking of life philosophies, we also agreed on the fact that eating meat might just be the answer to all of life’s problems. He recommended Kafana, on 116 Ave. C (between 7th and 8th Streets) for a grilled meat dish called cevapi, an example of authentic Serbian cuisine, as well as the Rolovane Suve Sljive i Dzigerica (dried prunes wrapped in bacon).

Food-related talk aside, our topics of conversation spanned from the intricacies of social media to the indispensable value of grandparents.  Mind you, the whole time this conversation took place, he was simultaneously navigating through New York City rush-hour traffic, avoiding impatient cars and oblivious pedestrians alike.

Genuinely concerned with my first impression of pedicabs, he repeatedly asked me if I was having a good time. He needn’t have worried; by the end of this escapade, I had absolutely nothing negative to say. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t experienced the thrill of facing the city in an open vehicle, and more importantly, in good company. For the skeptics out there, seek out Bojan Micic in the Strawberry Fields of Central Park.  He’ll prove you wrong.