The cycle rickshaw is a small-scale local means of transport; it is also known by a variety of other names such as bike taxi, velotaxi, pedicab, bikecab, cyclo, beca, becak, trisikad, or trishaw.
They are a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers on a for hire basis. Cycle rickshaws are widely used in major cities around the world, but most commonly in cities of South, Southeast and East Asia.
The cycle rickshaw was built in the 1880s and was first used with regularity starting in 1929 in Singapore. Six years later they outnumbered pulled rickshaws. Cycle rickshaws were found in every south and east Asian country by 1950. By the late 1980s there were estimated 4 million cycle rickshaws in the world.
In the 1990s, German-made cycle rickshaws called velotaxis were created. They are about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of regular taxis. Velotaxis are three-wheeled, automated vehicles with a space for a driver and, behind the driver, space for two passengers.
Electric-assist pedicabs were banned in New York City in January 2008, along with all other forms of electric vehicles; the city council decided to allow pedicabs propelled only by muscle power. The city of Toronto, Canada decided not to issue permits to electric-assist pedicabs.
The configuration of driver and passenger seats vary. Generally the driver sits in front of the passengers to pedal the rickshaw. There are some designs, though, where the cyclist driver sits behind the passengers. In many Asian countries, like India and China, the passenger seat is located behind the driver, while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam the driver sits behind the passenger seat. In the Philippines, the passenger seats are usually located beside the driver in a side car. Similarly, in Singapore the trishaw and in Burma the sai kaa the passengers sit alongside the driver. There are also recumbent tricycles like the "R-eco trike" that operate in London.
The cycle rickshaw is a small-scale local means of transport; it is also known by a variety of other names, such as: velotaxi and bikecab. Cyclo is used in Vietnam and Cambodia. Pedicab is used in the United Kingdom and United States. In Buffalo, New York, this type of vehicle is known as a bike taxi.
Cycle rickshaws are used in Asian countries, but also in countries outside Asia, such as large European and some North America cities. They are used primarily for their novelty value, as an entertaining form of transportation for tourists and locals, but they also have environmental benefits and may be quicker than other forms of transport if traffic congestion is high. Cycle rickshaws used outside Asia often are mechanically more complex, having multiple gears, more powerful brakes, and in some cases electrical motors to provide additional power.
In Madagascar rickshaws, including cycle rickshaws or cyclo-pousse, are a common form of transportation in a number of cities. Rickshaws are known as pousse-pousse, meaning push-push, reportedly for the pulled rickshaws that required a second person to push the vehicles up hills. Cycles are more common in the hillier areas, like Toamasina.
In many major cities, pedicabs can be found rolling about city centers, nightlife districts, park lands, sports stadia, and tourist-heavy areas. Myriad uses have been discovered in the states, including car-park-to-event transport at large events nationwide. Thousands of pedicabs today operate on streets and lots of locales including Austin, Tx; Manhattan, NY; Chicago; San Diego; Boston; San Francisco; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Denver; Portland, OR; Seattle; Charleston; New Orleans; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; Philadelphia; and dozens of other hot spots. Manhattan sports the largest collection of pedicabs operating within city limits, and the City of New York itself has mandated that approximately 850 pedicabs always sport operating permits issued by the city.
Subsequent U.S. manufacturers included Paradise Pedicabs, Main Street Pedicabs, and Charleston Pedicab. Only Main Street Pedicab persists.
Cycle rickshaws (রিকশা riksha) are the most popular modes of transport in Bangladesh and are available for hire throughout the country including the capital city Dhaka, known as the "Rickshaw Capital of the World". They were introduced here about 1938 and by the end of the 20th century there were 300,000+ cycle rickshaws in Dhaka.
Approximately 400,000 cycle rickshaws run each day. Cycle rickshaws in Bangladesh are also more convenient than the other public modes of transports in the country namely auto rickshaws, cabs and buses. They are mostly convertible, decorated, rickshaws with folding hoods and are the only kind of vehicles that can be driven in many neighborhoods of the city with narrow streets and lanes. However, increasing traffic congestion and the resulting collisions have led to the banning of rickshaws on many major streets in the city. Urban employment in Bangladesh also largely depend on cycle rickshaws. Because of inflation and unemployment in the rural areas, people from villages crowd in the cities to become rickshaw drivers locally called the riksha-wala (রিকশাওয়ালা).
Since the 1950s, when the pulled rickshaw was phased out, mid-city and large city passengers may travel using three-wheeled pedicabs, or cycle rickshaws. The Chinese term for the conveyance is sanlunche (三轮车). The vehicles may be pedal- or motor-powered. In Shanghai, most of the vehicles are powered by electricity.
Tourists are warned to beware of over-charging vendors, especially who wear an "old fashioned costume" or are located near tourist locations.
Whilst many local tourism authorities still issue licenses for rickshaw drivers to carry passengers, authorities in China are tightening rules in order to alleviate cheating of tourists and to reduce traffic congestion (e.g. a typical Chinese cycle-rickshaw will travel at less than 10kmh and is wide enough to fill an entire traffic or bicycle lane and therefore are blamed as a major cause of traffic congestion), and have been banned in many cities already.
Navdeep Asija started a dial-a-cycle rickshaw concept known as Ecocabs, Environmental friendly Ecocabs[nb 1] operate in the Punjab towns of Fazilka, Amritsar.[nb 2] Central Delhi and Kolkata. Passengers may call to request transport service, similar to dial-up taxi cab operations. [nb 3]
In West Bengal the Rotaract Club of Serampore finances cycle rickshaw purchases so that unemployed people can begin their own rickshaw business. The loans are repaid from the workers' earnings. When paid in full, the rickshaw workers own their rickshaw and other unemployed individuals are entered into the program.
Cycle rickshaws in Indonesia are called becak (pronounced [ˈbetʃaʔ]. They began being used in Jakarta about 1936. Becak were considered an icon of the capital city of Jakarta prior to its ban in the 1970s. Citing concerns of public order, the city government forbade them on the city's main streets. Scenes of the anti-becak campaign appear in the 1975 Canadian film Wet Earth and Warm People, a documentary by Michael Rubbo. Despite the attempts at eradication, however, many becak still operate near slums throughout the city. Attempts at reinforcing the ban resulted in large-scale seizures of the vehicle in the late 1990s and in 2007.
There are two types of "becak" in Indonesia: the first type is the driver sitting behind the passenger, the other one which mainly found in Sumatra is the driver sitting beside the passenger. "Becak" is still being used in various part of Indonesia, especially in smaller cities and town.
In Malaysia, pedestrian-pulled rickshaws were gradually replaced by cycle rickshaws (beca in Malay). Cycle rickshaws were ubiquitous up to the 1970s in cities. Since then, rapid urbanization has increased demand for more efficient public transport, resulting in dwindling cycle rickshaw numbers. Today, cycle rickshaws are operated mostly as a tourist attraction, with small numbers operating in Malacca, Penang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
In terai region of Nepal, cycle rickshaws are still the most popular means of public transport for short-distance commuting. Most big cities in the terai have hundreds of cycle rickshaws that carry local commuters and travelers, as well as are used for carrying goods. Since the terai region is bordered with India, cycle rickshaws are also popular means for shoppers, businessmen and travelers to travel in and out of the country freely. The free border between India and Nepal enable the rickshaw owners from both countries to operate across the border without any restriction.
However in Hilly regions of Nepal, cycle rickshaws are primarily used to attract tourists who can relax and travel around the popular streets and markets at reasonable fares. Cycle rickshaws are particularly popular among tourists to roam around the popular streets and markets of Thamel, Kathmandu.
A Philippine pedicab is called a traysikad, trisikad--or simply sikad--or padyak, from the Philippine word meaning to tramp or stamp one's feet. It is made by mounting a sidecar to a regular bicycle. They are used mainly to ferry passengers short distances along smaller, more residential streets, often to or from jeepneys or other public utility vehicles. They are also used for transporting cargo too heavy to carry by hand and over a distance too short or roads too congested for motor transport, such as a live pig. During rainy seasons, they are useful as a way to avoid walking through flood waters. Along with the jeepney, the motorcycle-powered tricycle, and the engine-powered kuliglig, the open-air pedicab provides shade when needed.
In Thailand, any three-wheeler is called samlor (Thai: สามล้อ, which literally means "three wheels"), whether motorized or not, including pedicabs, motorcycles with attached vending carts or sidecars, etc. The driver is also called samlor.
Cycle rickshaws are known as xích lô (pronounced sick-low, from the French cyclo) in Vietnam.
Cycle rickshaws, also called pedicabs, are used in most large continental European cities.
A new pedicab called "velotaxi" design was created in Germany. They are a "space-age lightweight plastic cab that is open on both sides with a passenger seat behind the peddler/driver." They have been made in Berlin, Germany by Ludger Matuszewski, the founder of "Velotaxi GmbH" company. Velotaxis are often used for group functions like weddings. Under German traffic laws, transporting people on bicycles was forbidden.
Berlin's Senate, police, and taxi associations finally agreed that the "cult-flitzer" could be integrated into the city's traffic flow. Germany's highest court later ruled that transporting people on bikes was legal. It is a modern and newly designed pedicab (CityCruiser) with a 500-watt electric assist motor. Although these electric-assist pedicabs were engineered in Germany they are manufactured in the Czech Republic and some clones are now also produced in China. The Chinese clone can be purchased for about three thousand US dollars; the German original is around six thousand US dollars (new version 9000+ €). The batteries last about 4 hours with a full charge. As with a few recumbent and semi-recumbent designs, some drivers may suffer with knee and joint pain due to the weight of the vehicle (145 kg).
During World War II, when Poland was under Nazi German occupation, the German authorities confiscated most privately owned cars and many of the streetcars and buses. Because of that, public transport was partially replaced by cycle rickshaws, at first improvised and with time mass-produced by bicycle factories. Cycle rickshaws became popular in Warsaw and by the start of the Warsaw Uprising were a common sight on the city's streets.
Pedicab rickshaws or cycle rickshaws were introduced by Simon Lane to Cambridge and then moved to London in 1998. The company operated later by the name of Bugbugs Ltd, which grew to be the largest fleet of human powered vehicles in Western Europe by 2004. Other cycle rickshaw companies have followed since. Subsequent pedicab or cycle rickshaw companies include Eco-chariots; London Pedicabs, tikki tikki and London Rickshaws, founded in 2003 with a large fleet of EcoTaxi's . Cycle rickshaws operate in central London, including Soho, Piccadilly, Leicester Square,and Covent Garden. There are currently about 850 cycle rickshaw or pedicab operating in London and some form of license is still awaited.[nb 5] A number of pedicab companies have managed to start operating around the UK, though these operate under the difficult Hackney Carriage Licenses which is not favorable for a human powered vehicle and has prevented growth. Rickshaws and pedicabs are found in the centre of Edinburgh where vendors are hired like taxis and provide tours. Pedicabs and their variants are also available in Oxford.
Two companies operate pedicabs in Sydney. Pedapod operate 'pod' styled cabs from Queen Victoria Buildings to Circular Quay. Tikki Tikki Australia operate more advanced 'classic' styled cabs from the Central Railway Station to Circular Quay and up to Kings Cross and down to Star City Casino.Tikki Tikki also has pedicabs and rickshaws in London and Vancouver
Pedicabs are also found in Brisbane, Melbourne, Darwin, Perth, Gold Coast, Cairns, Townsville, Newcastle, and Byron Bay.
New Zealand has had pedicabs since the early 1990s. New Zealand currently has 11 pedicabs in Auckland run by Heart Of The City. In Wellington a new company, Wellington Pedicabs, is launching on 11 January 2013.
In many Asian cities where they are widely used, cycle rickshaw driving provides essential employment for recent immigrants from rural areas, generally impoverished men. One study in Bangladesh showed that cycle rickshaw driving was connected with some increases in income for poor agricultural laborers who moved to urban areas, but that the extreme physical demands of the job meant that these benefits decreased for long-term drivers. In Jakarta, most cycle rickshaw drivers in the 1980s were former landless agricultural laborers from rural areas of Java.
In 2003, Dhaka cycle rickshaw drivers earned an estimated average of Tk 143 (US$2.38) per day, of which they paid about Tk 50 (US$0.80) to rent the cycle rickshaw for a day. Older, long-term drivers earned substantially less. A 1988–89 survey found that Jakarta drivers earned a daily average of Rp. 2722 (US$1.57). These wages, while widely considered very low for such physically demanding work, due in some situations compare favorably to jobs available to unskilled workers.
In many cities, most drivers do not own their own cycle rickshaws; instead, they rent them from their owners, some of whom own many cycle rickshaws. Driver-ownership rates vary widely. In Delhi, a 1980 study found only one percent of drivers owned their vehicles, but ownership rates in several other Indian cities were much higher, including fifteen percent in Hyderabad and twenty-two percent in Faridabad. A 1977 study in Chiang Mai, Thailand found that 44% of cycle rickshaw drivers were owners. In Bangladesh, driver-ownership is usually highest in rural areas and lowest in the larger cities. Most cycle rickshaws in that country are owned by individuals who have only one or two of them, but some owners in the largest cities own several hundred.
Some countries and cities have banned or restricted cycle rickshaws. They are often prohibited in congested areas of major cities. For example, they were banned in Bangkok in the mid-1960s as not fitting the modern image of the city being promoted by the government. In Dhaka and Jakarta, they are no longer permitted on major roads, but are still used to provide transportation within individual urban neighborhoods. They are banned entirely in Pakistan. While they have been criticized for causing congestion, cycle rickshaws are also often hailed as environmentally-friendly, inexpensive modes of transportation.
In Taiwan, the Road Traffic Security Rules require pedicabs to be registered by their owners with the police before they can be legally driven on public roads, or risk an administrative fine of 300 new Taiwan dollars (TWD). Their drivers must carry the police registration documents or risk a fine of 180 TWD, but no driver license is required. The administrative fines are based on Articles 69 and 71 of the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road traffic Regulations. As Taiwanese road traffic is now heavily motorized, most pedicabs have been replaced by taxicabs, but they can still be found at limited places, such as Cijin District of Kaohsiung City.
As a key part of the urban landscape in many cities, cycle rickshaws have been the subject of films and other artwork, as well as being extensively decorated themselves. The cycle rickshaw in Dhaka is especially well known as a major medium for Bengali folk art, as plasticine cutouts and handpainted figures adorn many cycle rickshaws.
Films featuring cycle rickshaws and their drivers include Kickboxer and Sammo Hung's 1989 martial arts film Pedicab Driver, which dealt with a group of pedicab drivers and their problems with romance and organized crime. Cyclo, a 1995 film by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung, is centered on a cycle rickshaw driver. Tollywood films with cycle rickshaw themes include Orey Rickshaw ("Orey" literally means "Hey", in a derogatory tone), which tells a story sympathising with the downtrodden, and Rickshavodu ("Rickshaw Guy").
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A becak and its driver wait for a fare in Bandung, Indonesia
A cycle rickshaw driver in Phnom Penh, Cambodia