New and as it seems, improved, EcoCaddy is a pretty special innovation to come to our city. EcoCaddy represents turning the every day things, like travel, into more sustainable practices, both for our economy and environment. As well, they reflect the fact that Adelaide really is one of the most well planned cities on the Earth, with streets that are made for a city on the go. Seeing those strange looking bikes ride past on the street, it’s hard to not want to know what it’s about. We sure did.
We sat down with EcoCaddy’s effervescent founder, Daniels Langeberg, who made our job pretty easy. Asking him to describe how EcoCaddy works brings out enthusiasm and excitement, not just a mundane explanation he’s given 100 times over. The founder, who is also an urban designer planner, has a passion for making the ‘A to B’ an experience.
“We’ve got amazing streets, and it’s really hard to retro- fit a city if it doesn’t have good bones”, he explained. “Adelaide’s got all of that, it just needs the right things to interlock it all”.
It’s simple; he wants to change the way we, as a city, move. The EcoCaddy plan is built around Adelaide City Council’s ‘smart move strategy’, something Daniels has learnt through his work as an urban planner. The strategy sees Adelaide focusing on alternative modes of transport; cycling being the main one, but mainly reducing car dependency and increasing public transport use. The service is efficient in many ways, running on simple human power and a bit of electricity. With no fuel costs, they have a great appeal to event organizers and customers, in providing an extremely cost effective and high quality transportation service.
EcoCaddy sets itself apart from similar pre-existing services with their quality. “We’re in the experience economy”, he explains. That desire to make the EcoCaddy experience a unique one is characteristic of the new generation of consumer growing today; the generation that prefers quality over quantity.
The service is a further reflection of our growing desire for quality transport, already shown with Adelaide’s enthusiasm towards Uber. “We have been likened to Uber, which I’m flattered by” he said. Different to Uber though, EcoCaddy is a complimentary service that fulfils the short and cheap trips gap left by both Uber and taxis. “We’re on the same team”, he explains, “We don’t want to compete with taxis; they already have a hard time”.
Daniels is aware of the negative connotation people tend to make with pedicabs and rickshaws, as most of people’s prior experience lies with noisy and questionable-safety of rickshaws in places like South East Asia. His mission is to normalise the idea of using a pedicab to get across the city, and make sure everyone knows how safe and efficient they can be.
As much as Daniels explains his business, he equally demonstrates his passion for Adelaide. “We’re trying to change the perception of seeing our city”, he explains. “Our city’s awesome”. That passion is coupled with a desire to change Adelaide for the better. “One of the best ways to change a city is to change the way people move, and we want to make it easier to move. Not just affluent people, students as well; they’re the ones who make places cool”.
When I broached the topic of the wars between cyclists and cars, EcoCaddies seem to be a new player in the equation, as they have the space and presence of a car, but use the city like cyclists. Daniels originally found more of a confused reaction rather than a negative one, “because cyclists didn’t know what to do with us, and nor did motorists”, he explains. To make things easy, their policy is simply to give way to everything. Taxis and buses tend to be their biggest potential for conflict, so they steer clear. Always with respect and courtesy, the EcoCaddies make their way around town with the classic one finger ‘howdy’ off of the steering wheel, like drivers on country roads.
Daniels hopes that EcoCaddy can raise the awareness of cyclists, and start to ease the tension caused by motorists greatly outnumbering bikes on the city streets. “Motorists, taxi drivers and buses are already starting to understand we’re there, so they look out for us”. He hopes that as motorists start to become accustomed to looking for EcoCaddies, they will similarly get used to watching for cyclists.
Getting onboard EcoCaddy – literally and figuratively – is simple. They’ve created an app to hail an EcoCaddy - EcoHAIL - wherever you are in the city. You simply register your name and phone number, hail a rider, and you’ll be notified when one is on their way. Like Uber, you see the name and picture of your rider, and their ETA, while you’re waiting. Daniels explains having the customer in direct contact with the rider is another part of the experience, where relationships are forged. Importantly, it also educates people about the service at the same time.
RADL has taken an EcoCaddy on a number of occasions, and it’s easy to promote the service when it’s this good. Each rider is friendly, chatty and informative. “It’s a nice platform where people naturally socialize, and just start talking”, said Daniels, likening an EcoCaddy ride to one of the random encounters you’d have on a ski lift. Each rider doubles as a tourist information centre, with the ability to recommend you a bar to drink at, a coffee shop to hang in, or a play to see; as I discovered, good banter is key.
While Daniels passionately explains the business, his true joy for the service comes from the rider-customer experience. He told me the story of ‘the blind lady from Burra’, a mostly blind woman who discovered EcoCaddy from faintly seeing the outline of a strange-looking yet silent figure seemingly floating down the road. She spoke to Daniels after discovering the service, and was soon jumping on board with her kelpie to get around the city. It’s clear that Daniels’ passion is in stories like these, not the money he makes or the notoriety he receives.
The occasional inebriated person who tells them to get real jobs doesn’t faze Daniels and his team. They love what they do, and what they’re providing our city. EcoCaddy is set to expand, with more caddies around the roads, and more people using them. Daniels hopes that come Fringe time in 2016, everyone will have heard of them. From transporting 3000 people from WOMADelaide to the city this year, to delivering coffees from Monday’s to the RAH building site, to transporting the Lord Mayor Martin Haese around town, it’s clear EcoCaddy is becoming an integral part of our transportation. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
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All images via EcoCaddy