Pedaling (Uphill) Through the DNC

Lisa Rab

Six years ago Noah Tagles was looking for a new career. He had retired from professional mountain biking but still wanted to earn some dough doing what he loved. Now here is, puffing hard as he pedals up Tryon Street, navigating through the monumental traffic jam that is the DNC.

"When the economy went south I needed a job— like everybody else— so I started doing this and just built it up," he says.

Tagles is the owner of Cycle Taxi USA, a pedicab business based in NoDa whose cyclists have been shuttling VIPs and partygoers throughout uptown. He says he spends twelve to fourteen hours a day on the streets, sweating and straining and rejoicing at the intermittent breeze. He's listened to helicopters roar overhead and spotted Army reservists with Humvees.  He's carted people to parties at Amos' Southend and deposited them at the swanky Westin across from the convention center. So far, he's only transported one famous person that he recognized: Andrew Young, the civil rights leader from Atlanta.

His biggest challenge is topography. Pointing out the concrete security barriers blocking off many streets, he explains that he can't take his normal, flatter routes this week. That means he's battling gravity far more than he'd like. "You're just one person, so that's good," he shouts over his shoulder as we wind down Church Street. "I've had ten people back there."

Luckily, the convention crowd is not a raucous one. Tagles does most of his business at night, when the parties are in full swing. Passengers wear suits and heels, and they don't tell Tagles if they're headed to a private lobbyist pow-wow. "Everyone's, you know, kind of serious,"  he says.

 But they are treated to a whole new perspective on uptown. Bumping along in an open-air cab, small details of the city stand out—the magenta leaves of plants decorating the sidewalk, the slate gray of the sky. And when did all those porta-potties on South Church appear?

 Tagles is breathing hard the whole time, calf muscles straining, as he navigates over potholes and cracks in the asphalt. For ten bucks a ride in eighty-degree heat, this is a hell of a way to earn a living.

Moments after dropping me off near the Knight Theater, he spots a cluster of men in dark suits walking by. "Gentlemen, ya'll need a lift? I got a stretch limo for you," he shouts.

And the day has just begun.