Centaur Cyles founder Blake Forrester looks to reinvent the old Lynch's Prawns site

Pedalling change: Centaur Cycles founder Blake Forrester in one of his company's pedicabs. Picture: Penelope Green

Pedalling change: Centaur Cycles founder Blake Forrester in one of his company's pedicabs. Picture: Penelope Green

What led to your decision to buy Rickshaw Revolution two years ago?

At the time, Centaur Cycles Pty Ltd was already operating a pedicabing company but our main focus was on events. The owner of Rickshaw Revolution decided to sell their business and we needed a few more pedicabs at the time.  We always loved the business name Rickshaw Revolution, so we ran with it as our trading name. 

 What sort of customers are attracted to hiring one of your pedicabs?

It really depends on the market.  On a Friday or Saturday night it tends to be young people having a night out. Our riding tours are appealing to couples celebrating a special occasions, or visitors to our city.  Then there’s the experiential and event work which is client based marketing work around brand activations and mobile outdoor advertising campaigns.

 Why get a pedicab over a taxi?

If you have to ask that question, then you’ve never been for a ride in a pedicab.  A taxi is transport, a pedicab is a party.  When was the last time you saw somebody in the back of a pedicab who didn’t look like they were having an absolute blast?

A taxi is transport, a pedicab is a party. When was the last time you saw somebody in the back of a pedicab who didn’t look like they were having an absolute blast?

Blake Forrester

 How far can the pedicabs travel?

The pedicabs will typically do 30km in a night and I’ve had one do 70km on New Year’s Eve.  If you think about it the guys are doing the same distance whether they are on twenty short runs in the CBD or one long run out of town.  

As I always say to people, we will take you as far as you will pay us to.

 How has the business changed since you took it over?

I don’t think that the local stuff has changed a whole lot yet, but its certainly about to with Lynch’s Hub coming into the picture. 

Lynch’s will give us the opportunity to focus more on the tour side of things and on limited daytime operations which I hope will give pedicabbing much more of a profile as something that people associate with Newcastle. 

 Are you an avid bike rider and do you drive a pedicab?

I was an avid bike rider until I had a nasty injury to my back requiring major surgery about 12 months ago. 

I still ride a bit but not like I used to and I love to ride the pedicabs but unfortunately this is pretty limited for me as well (I’m getting too old for the late nights anyhow).

 You and some other business folk are currently crowdfunding to renovate the old Lynch's Prawns on Newcastle harbour. What is your business plan for the site?

The concept for Lynch’s is very community focused and seeks to realise the value of the Lynch’s building as an activation site for the foreshore parklands. 

An espresso bar in the round section at the front, this will be our key commercial operation at the site. 

We will create a community cycle workshop in the rear section offering a free tool stand and support for urban transport and recreational cyclists. 

We are also setting up a tour desk to be co-operatively managed by a group of local small group tour operators.  Finally, we will set up a sorely needed amusement hire offering on the foreshore with tandem bikes, funky frames, ebikes and even some of our rickshaws.

 How is the crowdfunding process going?

We made it! The whole experience has been amazing, the way that the community have got behind this concept has been incredibly rewarding for us.  We’ve had some amazing corporate sponsorships as well. 

Even since the crowd fund has ended we’ve had local companies approach us to offer support in assisting us with works at the site to maximising the outcomes from every cent that we have raised.

 What other business interests do you have?

Centaur Cycles Pty Ltd has a base in Cairns as well, although that’s pretty much it for us these days.  As the bid for Lynch’s has progressed over the last 18 months we’ve been setting ourselves up to really focus our resources and efforts on this project.

 What do you think of Newcastle's ongoing revitalisation?

I couldn’t be any more excited about what is happening in Newcastle right now. 

A lot of places are going through an urban revival at the moment, but for some reason that is happening in Newcastle without the city and the community losing its grit and character.  I think that’s really exciting.  

 If money wasn't an issue, what would you spend it on in Newcastle?

I would build a Speers Point-style playground and an aquarium and/or a wildlife park in the foreshore parklands. 

I’d also complete the project to activate the Nobby’s lighthouse site. 

Basically, I’d do whatever had to be done in order to make our foreshore parklands the incredible recreational precinct and regional attraction that they must become if we ever expect to realise the full potential of a vibrant and revitalised Newcastle.