Downtown 4-wheel drive

Riding his four-wheel bicycle through downtown Ashland, Mark Anthony gets a lot of looks from people wondering just what kind of vehicle he is peddling around.

"It's like going back to the stage coach days," he said of his surrey bike, which was custom-made in Talent by Gary Angell. "You get around a little slower than in a car, but you still get around. You go slow enough that you can still talk to people as you ride by."

Surrey bikes, which Anthony thinks can help Ashlanders eschew the automobile, are multi-passenger, 4-wheeled, chain-operated bikes with a steering wheel. They combine the comforts of the car with the kinetic power of a bike.

"If I can use them to get people out of their cars, great," he said, as he pedalled up Winburn Way. "More things like this have to hit the market."

Anthony, an entrepreneur, bought a fleet of eight surrey bikes from Angell, and he is not yet sure how to use them to turn a profit. He is confident there will be a way.

He has considered renting them to tourists in downtown Ashland, making them available for weddings and private parties or decorating them with advertisements and driving around as a mobile billboard. He also runs a Wi-Fi business and wants to use them as "green" work vehicles.

"I'm open to suggestions," he said. "I'm going to use mine as an example of what you can do with them."

He sells new surreys for $3,200 and about $2,500 for a used model.

So far, the best use he has come up with is using them for fun.

"They have a European kiss to them," he said, touching his fingers to his mouth and making a smooching sound. "People have told me, when they see one, it immediately puts them in a good mood."

Surrey bikes are available all over the country, and Angell Surrey Inc., the Talent-based company that Anthony bought his fleet from is just one of the many manufactures of the invention. Anthony said they are most often used in resort communities, such as Monterrey and Martha's Vineyard, for older people who need a leisurely way to get around.

Gary Angell has been making them for 10 years in Talent before Anthony bought the majority of his fleet. Besides the three-seater, he often drives around Ashland, he also has an eight-passenger version that four people pedal.

"It's like a limousine," Anthony said.

Anthony toured Lithia Park, Calle Guanajuato and the Plaza on Thursday afternoon in his three-seater version, which also has space up front for two young children, and a retractable awning in case of inclement weather. Downhill, it can go about 16 miles-per-hour, he said. Uphill, their weight &

Anthony said "they are as durable as shopping carts" &

and single-gear mechanism makes them hard to pedal. He said an electric motor could be added to the surrey for about $2,000.

"You could take it on a cross-country trip, if you had the energy," Anthony said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .

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