It’s 1 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the streets are alive with pedicab lights and the sound of laughter and alternative rock. For many of the city’s Boober Drivers, this is what redemption looks like.
Boober Tours was started by owner Kevin Spangler in March 2016 with only one pedicab and one driver — himself. Today, Boober Tours has become an incredibly popular form of transportation in Ann Arbor, with many students and locals relying on the bikes to get home safely or just hitch a cheap ride across town. But for Spangler, it has always been about more than that.
“While I was living in the homeless shelter I was working four jobs, and I saved up all my money working those four jobs. … I bought my first pedicab for $4,700 and that’s how I started,” Spangler said.
Now drivers have an opportunity to rent pedicabs through Boober Tours to pick up riders and earn their own fare. Spangler said it offers an opportunity for people from all walks of life to make money and improve their lives like he did.
“Sometimes people are getting out of jail or getting out of rehab… trying to get back on their feet and they don’t have a license or identification,” said Spangler. “We hire everyone; We’re trying to help everyone improve their life, it’s not just the people who are suffering from drugs and alcohol or mental disorders.”
For many of the Boober Drivers in Spangler’s fleet, it’s not just a job, but a second chance. Daryn Goff, 29, has been with Boober Tours for two months and said that driving the pedicab offers him a “healthy distraction” while he is in recovery.
“I ride my bike every day as it is, so it’s kept me sane doing something I love and making good money doing it,” said Goff.
According to Kevin Spangler, business is booming in Ann Arbor. His drivers are reaping the benefits big-time, and the key is charisma.
“My goal is for all of my drivers to make $300 a night with ease, and not have to worry or stress about making any money. Everybody has a different skill level with how they’re able to talk and work and make money, but I want to make it easy for every driver to make their $300 a night,” said Spangler.
Aside from seeing the sights and sounds of the city, customers who hitch a ride in a Boober pedicab can expect lights, music and lively conversation. This friendly experience is what Boober Tours prides itself on, and Daryn Goff’s cab is no exception.
“I’ve made so many friends in just such a short amount of time,” Goff said. “It’s refreshing… getting out of my shell after a year and a half of living in a shell.”
Due to the success of Boober Tours and a recent increase in business, Spangler said he plans to offer tours in Lansing soon and hopes to eventually expand across Michigan and beyond.
Customers that are interested in riding with Boober Tours can visit the new GoBoober app for IOS or boobertours.com to book a ride. Customers can also hail a pedicab anywhere within Boober Tours’ 3.5-mile operation radius in Ann Arbor. For each ride, Boober Tours does not have a set fare but rather suggests a donation of $5-20 per person.