It'll Never Fly: City Rickshaws

As a mode of urban transport, the rickshaw is an odd choice. In heavy traffic, these flimsy tricycles expose their passengers to noxious fumes and the threat of death by motorised wheel - with all views blocked by the rider and their heaving posterior. When we've got buses, taxis and trains, surely this symbol of colonial subjugation should really be history? Yet the London Pedicabs Operators Association says there are 500 such contraptions on the streets of London today and that their riders are governed by a stringent code of practice. They can earn up to £150 a week without setting foot inside an office or having any qualifications, and fans point to the environmental benefit, too. And it's by no means a London phenomenon. One company alone - the US's Main Street Pedicabs - exports bikes to 35 cities across 17 countries, including Kuwait, Puerto Rico and Norway. In the UK, Ted Maxwell, grandson of Captain Bob, wants to bring the rickshaw to Oxford's narrow streets. 'They're great fun to ride,' he says, 'and it's nice being able to chat to passengers over your shoulder.' Still, Oxford City Council has denied Maxwell a licence, saying: 'Rickshaws fall very far short of the present safety and constructional requirements for hackney carriages.' A new rickshaw costs about £2,000, but they're a lot less on eBay. Two have been up for grabs 'for personal reasons'. Perhaps the sellers discovered the joy of doing sudoku on the bus and never looked back.

by Tara Craig

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