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Neil Ainsworth on his Pedi-cab at Central Park

An Irishman’s American Dream: Meet the Irish Central Park cyclist

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Neil Ainsworth on his Pedi-cab at Central Park

On any given day a young County Mayo man can be found chauffeuring tourists around Central Park on the back of his rented Pedi-cab, winning them over with his charm and wowing them with his in-depth knowledge of the city.

Neil Ainsworth, 26, has everything -- charm, knowledge and, most of all, a savvy business mind.

Ainsworth, who hails from Castlebar, County Mayo, is new to the city, but his knowledge goes back decades.

“Over there,” points Ainsworth. “That is original granite rock. It’s actually the only natural thing in this man made Central Park.”

On a recent swoop around the iconic city landmark, Ainsworth proves his worth.

During his one hour cycle tour, this young Mayo man, while peddling up and down hills ferociously, was spouting off Central Park facts, pointing out where various famous movies were made and imparting his knowledge of what superstar lived where on the ride.

Ainsworth came to the U.S. in May 2008 to create his own American Dream. He laughs, however, when asked if he ever saw himself cycling bikes to make a living.

“Not at all,” he said smiling. “But it’s a great job seriously. Let me tell you where exactly I’ve worked.”

Although Central Park is his summer hub, during the winter Ainsworth travels the country to make his money.

Joined by his friend, Dean Doherty (also a Castlebar man), Ainsworth has worked some of the most prestigious and historical events in the U.S.

Last January, Ainsworth and Doherty left New York for Washington, D.C. It was, after all, the place everyone wanted to be.

President Barack Obama was being inaugurated and the boys knew there was plenty of money to be made. In fact, Ainsworth made a whopping $4,000 in four days in the capital, chauffeuring folks from event to event.

The day of the inauguration, January 20, Ainsworth made $1,500. His client list was impressive.

He chauffeured former vice president Al Gore to a party that day. “He was lovely,” recalls Ainsworth, who resides in Woodlawn in the Bronx.

But it was money hard earned. “When we got to Washington me and Dean spent six hours walking the streets so we would become familiar with the place,” he said.

The pair then spent the next 24 hours working the streets, although exhausted Ainsworth said he was delighted to have been part of such a huge event.

When the inauguration celebrations were done and dusted, Ainsworth and his pal headed south to Orlando, Florida where they worked International Drive for a few weeks. Shortly after another golden event was taking place, the Super Bowl in Tampa.

Again, Ainsworth worked extremely hard and quickly made new friends. “We met the owner of the Miami Dolphins and we stayed in his house in Fort Lauderdale. Can you believe that?” he asked proudly.

After spending six weeks in Florida, New Orleans was the next stop to work the Mardi Gras. 

Since arriving back in New York, Ainsworth is busy keeping the New York tourists, especially the ones from Ireland, happy.

When asked what makes him different from the hundreds of other Pedi-cab drivers, Ainsworth said, “I’m Irish, I’ve so much knowledge of this city, I’m fluent in English and, of course, charming.”

Aside from giving New York visitors the low down on the city, Ainsworth also works weddings, honeymoons and proposals in the park and beyond.

“A lot of Irish people come here on their honeymoon and they book me to bring them on a tour,” he adds.

After an hour long historical tour (and a bit of craic) at Central Park, Ainsworth brings his clients to a nearby Irish bar so they can get fed and watered.

However, the past few weeks have been very slow for the young Mayo man. The weather has been bad, the recession is in full swing and the competition is heating up.

“The city is talking about regulating the bikes, and the sooner they do that the better for me because there are so many of us now on the streets. It’s a real hustle to get customers,” said Ainsworth.

“If it stays this quiet I will have to move on,” he added. “Yesterday I worked 10 hours and I only made $130, it’s that quiet.”

During one of his trips around the park, Ainsworth met a gentleman who offered him a job in Buffalo with a concrete company, and although he would love to stay in Manhattan, he said the recession and the hundreds of bikes on the city streets are slowing business down immensely.

“I don’t want to leave New York but I have to make a living so Buffalo might be my only option,” he said.

A ride with Ainsworth will set you back approximately $65 for an hour. Although, he is open for negotiations and will “give a good deal when I can, especially if you’re Irish,” he said with a wink.

To contact Ainsworth for a tour, call 347-334-0731

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