White van man is Hull’s first rickshaw taxi driver!
By Kevin Shoesmith
HE HAS missed the Olympics and didn’t fancy the hills much in the Tour de France, so he’s turning to the streets of Hull to make a few quid from his cycling passion instead. Former white van man Neil Worner is Hull’s first rickshaw driver and, for £3, he promises to take fares anywhere in the city centre. He said: "One day I was driving down Clough Road and it took me 20 minutes to travel 200 yards. It got me thinking. "I thought, ‘If only I could cycle for a living’. "Well, I missed the Olympics and I definitely don’t think I’m good enough for the Tour De France. "That’s when I thought about buying a rickshaw. Hull is flat – perfect for cycling." But it has not been easy for bachelor Neil, 50, to turn his Eureka! moment into reality. Neil, of east Hull, splashed out £4,000 for the Fenix rickshaw and insurance, only to discover he needed a Hackney carriage licence to launch his business. He said: "I don’t think Hull City Council knew how to categorise me at first – was I a street vendor or some kind of taxi driver? "Eventually, they decided I was a taxi driver and I was told I needed to apply for a Hackney carriage licence, which costs £123.50, because I would be picking up fares off the street." Neil was also required to take another test at a cost of £66, despite haven driven for 32 years. But he is grateful, nonetheless, for the support he has received from the local authority. "It’s taken longer than expected to get it launched, but I don’t have any complaints – the council has backed the idea and been really supportive," said Neil. Eventually, he aims to make 20 trips a day. "It is going to take a while to drum up business," he admits. "Word has to spread that Hull has a rickshaw. But I do expect it to be popular. I don’t need to make a lot of money to live – there’s only me." Initially, Neil’s business Hull Rickshaws, will run from 10am to 4pm, but he may consider working later to cash-in on Hull’s night-time economy. He said: "Ladies wearing stilettos might appreciate the rickshaw. Drinkers might like to be taken from one pub to another." But Neil thinks his clientele will be mixed and varied. "It’s for anyone who wants to travel a little differently," he said. "I will be going at a gentle walking pace, so it will be very relaxing." It won’t be quite as relaxing for Neil though. "It’s going to be hard work," he said. "But enjoyable and rewarding, hopefully, too. "When the weather gets a little cooler, it will be easier." Neil plans to sell his Kia car to help cover costs. "I’ve taken out a business loan with NatWest," he said. "The bank manager said it was refreshing to see someone doing something a little bit different and launching an original business – not another takeaway." Neil has been the butt of his friends’ jokes, but he hopes he will have the last laugh. "I’ve been called an idiot for doing this," he said. "But at least I’m taking a chance and doing something a little bit different."