PROVINCETOWN — Like clockwork, a lull settles over Provincetown. As summer ebbs, year-rounders reclaim the town, bidding farewell to summer’s frenzied pace. They don’t take pedicabs much.
Pedicab drivers persist, though, roaming down Commercial Street, eyes alert for the few remaining customers of the season.
“September is my favorite month,” says Camila, a pedicab driver, pausing to enjoy the sunset from MacMillan Pier. “Except for the money, because it gets a little slow.” After Labor Day, she says, a driver’s weekly income drops by about half.
This is Camila’s third season in Provincetown. She occasionally sends money back home to Colombia to support her family. They have a restaurant there. Despite the slowdown of cash, Camila says that in September, “You get time for yourself; you get time for your friends.”
On a typical summer day, Emmanuel Jackson pockets $300, a number that drops to $100 after Labor Day. “I could have made even more if I just wasn’t lazy,” he says, standing in front of town hall looking for customers. His summer schedule, 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, is not unusual for a driver, he says.
Emmanuel and his brother, Ethan Jackson, moved to Provincetown together from rural Ohio in 2021. The relocation was prompted by Ethan’s acceptance at Summer of Sass and a job at the Canteen, an opportunity that pulled them from their rural surroundings, where the safety of his young, queer brother was a concern. “We were living way out in the middle of the country, like literally way in the middle of nowhere,” Emmanuel says.
Provincetown not only offered sanctuary for the brothers but gave them earning power. “If you’re young and you want to make a lot of money, you can do it here,” Emmanuel says.
Outside Essentials in the West End, Jordan Rodriguez Valenti is at ease, feet up in the back of his cab. “It’s called the September slowdown,” he says. “Weekends are busy; weekdays, you enjoy yourself.”
This is Valenti’s third season driving a pedicab in town. A Mexico native who grew up in Texas, he says he traded life in New York City, where video production and restaurant gigs kept him indoors, for Provincetown’s outdoors. “I like looking at the sky while I’m working,” Valenti says. “Watching all the colors change as the day progresses — it’s a gift.”
But driving a pedicab isn’t always a chill job, Valenti says.
In Provincetown, pedicab fares are negotiated. “There are no set fees,” says the town’s website. The gratuity-based pricing can cause tension between drivers and riders. It’s a subjective system, and its ambiguity makes for awkward transactions. “We’re allowed to suggest, not to ask” for a specific fare, says Valenti.
When drivers tell customers that it’s a “gratuity-based service” or say “You decide” when asked about the cost of a ride, tourists are confused, Valenti says. A typical fee is around $20, but there are times when “people just throw you crumpled-up singles,” he says.
George, here from Bulgaria, is perched on his pedicab, cigarette in hand, stationed in front of Lewis Brothers Ice Cream. The spot at the town’s main crossroads that is packed all summer is noticeably quiet on a late-September Wednesday. “There are still people here,” says George, an optimist.
This is his third summer in town. The first was spent waiting tables, but the open air and a desire to set his own schedule beckoned him to the pedicab. “It’s the best job in town because of the flexibility and exercise,” says George. “I feel free — like a bird.”
The arrival of fall and its thinning crowds doesn’t really worry George. His earnings now are tied to his willingness to work, just as they are in the summer: “The more you drive, the more you earn.”