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Chico icon ‘Mike G’ electrifies downtown streets

Mike+G+smiles+with+his+dog+while+resting+on+his+pedicab.+Photo+credit%3A+Tara+Killoran
Mike G smiles with his dog while resting on his pedicab. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

Mike G smiles with his dog while resting on his pedicab. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

Mike G smiles with his dog while resting on his pedicab. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

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It’s quiet at the Thursday Night Market – most of the vendors are still setting up. Low guitar hums in the background as pedestrians move lazily through the blocked-off streets.

The sound of loud bass and pop music rip through the air and drown out the local melody. Mike Griffith, otherwise known as “Mike G” flies into sight on his pedicab and makes his way around the block—dancing with his arms and torso while his dog, Lil G, sits up in his basket, enjoying the breeze.

Griffith, a self-made, professional pedicab driver and community activist, might just be one of the most dynamic personalities Chico has to offer. He brings unparalleled energy and intensity into everything he does, whether it’s pedicab driving, fundraising or helping out friends in need.

Twelve years ago, Griffith found himself in a dark place—drug-addicted and living on the streets when a local pedicab driver allowed him to try out his bike. He soon fell in love with the profession, eventually starting his own business.

His new passion led him to start living sober, as he recently hit 11 years clean. Still, he has a deep connection and understanding for homelessness in Chico, even serving as one of the first ambassadors between local businesses and the homeless population. Roles like this have earned him respect from common pedestrians and authority figures alike.

Even a local park ranger sparks up a playful conversation as Griffith rides into Chico’s City Plaza and dismounts his bike. Kids pass by to watch Lil G dance back and forth on the cab seat. Griffith finishes the last of his Rockstar Energy Drink, turns up his music and heads off down the block to take a loop around the market.

His large speakers radiate through the streets. He rarely passes someone without attempting to get some sort of reaction. Locals wave, smile and dance—one man in a white shirt leans out of his car window to give Griffith a high-five.

Tara Killoran
"Lil G", the dog of downtown personality "Mike G" rests on his owner's pedicab.

Everyday onlookers like these make it possible for Griffith’s pedicab business, G Ride, to be his only source of income. He generates a living by accruing sponsors that place signs on his cabs. They know he’s “going to bring it hard for them.” But, for Griffith, it’s all about the reaction. He does it because he can change a person’s attitude with one look.

That mood shift is palpable, as entertained pedestrians look over their shoulders to find Griffith greeting friends and giving Lil G a chance to show off his famous dance moves.

Griffith befriends families and college students alike, often giving free rides to people in need after dark. He also throws himself into community activism, hosting events such as the annual drunk driving awareness fundraiser in honor of Kristina Chesterman, who was killed by a drunk driver, five years ago. Griffith wants students and families to know that there’s always an alternative to drunk driving.

Although Griffith seems like a natural installment of Chico, it wasn’t always easy for him to be so energized. When he first began driving pedicabs, Griffith would have to psych himself up before each ride, and feel over-exhausted afterwards.

The job drains him, emotionally and physically. He pours every ounce of his energy into the streets. In his off hours, its all about rest and recuperation. He enjoys seeing movies, eating at local restaurants and being a “TV junkie.”

He used to argue with himself, insisting that he wasn’t going to “go that hard again.” Now it all comes naturally.

He spouts comments like “Wanna race?” as he circles back to the front of the market—a man in a green shirt smiles. Griffith dismounts and begins walking his bike within the borders of the market. Locals approach for high-fives and handshakes; he stops at a kettle corn stand for an evening snack.

He walks the market like a well-known celebrity, greeting everyone as he passes.

“Hey buddy, nice hat.”

“I’m good on the million dollar bill, got a million of em.”

The community knows him well. He’s won number one local personality in the Best of Chico contest two years in a row. He’s looking to win it five times and become a local living legend.

He believes that it takes a lifetime to build a personality. But going “from living on the streets… to number one local personality,” is an accomplishment. And that’s what keeps our notorious local pedicab driver moving.

Grant Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @G_Schmieding on Twitter.

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Chico icon ‘Mike G’ electrifies downtown streets