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What is a Quadricycle?

A quadracycle is a four-wheeled human-powered land vehicle. It may also be referred to as a quadricycle, quadcycle, pedal car or four-wheeled bicycle. According to Wikipedia, quadracycles have been in use since 1853 and have grown into several families of vehicles for a variety of purposes, including tourist rentals, pedal taxis, private touring, mountain and industrial use.

Early Design - The earliest recorded pedal-powered quadracycle was exhibited in 1853 at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations World’s Fair held in New York City. This was about the same time that two-wheeled bicycles started to become popular. Quadracycles were one solution to the problem of low-speed stability in early cycles and were typically multi-seat models. Both tandem (in line) and sociable (side-by-side) seating configurations were used. One early design, predating 1869, was the Andrews Quadracycle built by Andrews of Dublin, Ireland. It was made from one inch-square iron and was propelled with foot levers that moved in a long horizontal ellipse. The Sawyer Quadricycle was introduced in 1855 and featured lighter construction, wooden wheels, iron tires and front-wheel steering via a tiller. Like the Andrews Quadracycle it was moved by foot levers driving the rear axle. Starley’s Coventry Rotary Quadracycle was introduced in 1885 and used conventional bicycle-style rotary pedals instead of foot levers for drive. It was developed from Starley's Coventry Rotary Tricycle design and featured tandem seating for two. The Rudge Quadracycle of 1888 is described as the first modern practical four-wheeler. It had much lighter construction than earlier models, seated three riders in tandem and was steered by levers from the front seat. Modern Design - Quadricycle use diminished in the late 19th century as a result of improvements in bicycle technology that made their four-wheel cousins largely obsolete, although small numbers were manufactured through the 1950s for rental use in tourist areas.

A resurgence of 20th century quadricycle use occurred in France where Charles Mochet introduced his Velocar pedal powered two-seat quadricycle in 1924. The Velocar proved quite popular, especially during World War II when the French population was under German occupation and gasoline was virtually unavailable for civil use.

During the 1970s and 1980s, there was new interest in quadricycles. These vehicles were used as personal transportation instead of automobiles due to the 1973 oil crisis and growing environmental concerns about air pollution from cars.

Today, quadricycles can often be found at tourist attractions and resort communities, such as Galveston’s Salt Water Gift Shop, where they are available for rent by the hour or day. Modern tourist quadricycles usually feature open seating for two or more riders in a sociable, side-by-side configuration. They are often designed to look like early 20th century automobiles with a bench seat, rack-and-pinion steering and a canopy top. They are commonly called surreys due to their resemblance to horse-drawn wagons of similar appearance and the same name.

Similar to the surrey bike are pedal taxis or pedicabs. These tend to be four or even six seaters and are used as taxis, pedaled by professional drivers. Like the rental bike surreys, they are often found at tourist attractions and in the downtown areas of tourist destination cities, such as here on Galveston Island.

Ready to try out a quadricycle? Stop by Salt Water Gift Shop at 1728 Seawall Boulevard in sunny Galveston, Texas. We rent quadricycles by the hour or the day. Seating options include two-seaters, family four-seaters, or our limo party six-seater. The options are endless when you have the freedom to pedal your way to your next destination. Go biking on Galveston Island today!

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