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The Electric Cargo Trike That Could

Quebec-based Michel Letarte chats with us about his innovative, community-based RadBurro projects, including a mobile library and an elder-care pedicab.

Becs Richards

Michel Letarte maintains an entrepreneurial, bicycle-driven spirit. He uses a RadBurro electric cargo trike for not one, not two, but three projects (and counting) all with the goal of benefiting his community and emboldening connection.

Letarte has a creative history with bikes. In 2005, he began using a pedicab for camping adventures with his family of four, and his unique mode of transportation quickly gained popularity amongst families at campgrounds. “People were coming up to me, asking ‘Where can I get one?'” he said.

In 2011, his wife surprised him with a trip to New York for his birthday. While he was there, Letarte saw young kids working on pedicabs and fell in love with the bikes. Shortly after, he began his own pedicab company in his city, Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

RadBurroLibrary

He started out by providing transportation for the Festivoix festival, and quickly discovered that people really enjoyed the service. “It’s more than a ride; it is an experience,” Letarte said.

He sought ways to go further, for longer, and came across Rad Power Bikes via a web search. The electronic assist transformed his business ventures. “These bikes give me more possibilities,” he says. “I am not exhausted anymore!”

Another realization from his investment in the RadBurro is Bibliovelo, a mobile bicycle library. Michel was approached by (now business partner) Steve Bernier with the idea, and they are presently in the midst of a successful pilot for the program.

The Bibliovelo meets at the intersections of accessibility, adaptivity, and education. “We bring the library to you,” Letarte shared. Bernier carries books and board games on the RadBurro, providing a mobile extension of the Municipal City Library free of charge to the community.

The library is scheduled to visit numerous parks around the city throughout the summer, making classic library selections more attainable for community members who are unable to travel into the city to check out a library book. Children can now visit the trike to pick up a book to read for a few hours while sitting on a park swing or hanging out under a shaded tree.

Letarte’s RadBurros are highly adaptive for his needs. During the day, the etrike is a library, but it transforms into a pedicab shuttle in the evening. When we talked, Letarte was sitting and resting in the back of his cab. “I am testing the bike to see how far it can go on one charge, and finding the best routes in the city,” he said.

He is also beginning new RadBurro projects with a local elder-care facility -- where he plans to use the bikes to get older folks outside and increase mobility and connection -- as well as a water distribution vessel, where the public can fill their own glasses and bottles instead of using single-use plastic bottles.

“I love that it is easy to get in touch with people on this bike,” he said. “I can use the bike in so many different ways, the sky’s the limit.”

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