One enjoyable way to embark on a sightseeing expedition in the Windy City is to hire a pedicab or rickshaw driver to show you around. You'll find a handful of rickshaw services in Chicago that provide local commuters with comfortable transportation in partially enclosed carts attached to bicycles; the rickshaw drivers know every nook and cranny of the city. It's hard to pinpoint the average salary of rickshaw drivers in Chicago, but in the summer of 2011, a few local industry professionals offer detailed information regarding how much money their drivers can earn.
Roger Rickshaw on Chicago's south side has provided pedicab services to locals and tourists since 2001. Owner and operator Roger Brownworth says, "I lease my vehicles to independent contract drivers who can then earn virtually as much or little as they like, because they set their own rates and work their own hours." Brownworth compared the pay to that of Chicago-area waiters and bartenders, estimating that the average salaries for rickshaw drivers could be anywhere from $500 to more than $1,000 per week based on 40- to 60-hour workweeks.
Chicago Rickshaw is the city's leading provider of "green transportation," maintaining a fleet of 20 canopied carriages serving the loop and many popular Chicago area hot-spots. Owner Robert Tipton prefers to rent his rickshaw bicycles to drivers after they have completed a company-administered safety course and signed a rental agreement. Although each driver is free to charge customers the rates of their choice, Tipton revealed that the average price-per-ride for most drivers ranged between $25 and $50. The actual take-home pay for Chicago Rickshaw drivers depends entirely on how many hours -- or rides -- they choose to provide daily. Tipton also reported, at the time of publication, the price of bicycle rental for rickshaw drivers was $40 per day, $160 per week and $600 per month.
Tours and Commission
Rickshaw Rick's Tours and Taxi is located just minutes from the Chicago city limits in Oak Park, Illinois, and offers a number of scheduled tours, including rides through historical Oak Park areas such as the Harrison Street arts district, Ernest Hemingway birthplace and museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright homes and studio. Rickshaw Rick's drivers are not required to lease or rent pedicabs, and are paid strictly on a commission-only schedule. According to owner Rick Carter, in 2011 the average hourly rate for tour drivers is about $60 minus $5 per hour paid to the ticket agent who schedules the tour. Carter also estimates that a low-end weekly salary is on average about $600, but can usually extend to as high as $800 if the weather permits.
All three resources agreed that it is fairly common to receive tips as a rickshaw driver, however, because they are independent contractors, drivers are not required to reveal the amount of their tips to the owners of the companies. Rick Carter of Rickshaw Rick's Tours and Taxi said voluntary tips received by pedicab drivers are usually about 15 percent of the price of the ride or tour.
Considerations And Benefits
If you're interested in becoming a rickshaw driver in Chicago, keep in mind that the weather plays a distinct role in how much you're going to earn. Chicago experiences a great deal of rain, snow and freezing temperatures that render rickshaw driving a seasonal occupation, typically between April and October, leaving many position holders to find supplemental income for nearly half the year. Also, since they work as independent contractors, rickshaw drivers are generally not eligible to receive unemployment benefits, are responsible for their own health insurance and retirement plans, and are required to pay their own taxes.