Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bicycle ambulance

Picture 268, originally uploaded by aaronforest.

In Namibia people are addressing their need for low cost transportation of sick and injured people to hospitals and medical centers.
This bike trailer is being developed and is expected to be a great improvement in communities that don't have access to motorized vehicles.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Forest via the Bikes Namibia blog.

News updates

Taj Mahal tourism takes on an eco-friendly approach

Rickshaw race to encourage Cooperation between police ant rickshaw riders in Delhi (includes video)

It is great to see that in Malaysia people still appreciate the trishaw I think in some parts people still have fond memories of when they were more commonly used as transport. They now seem to have become an endearing part of Malaysia's cultural heritage. As the following report on the Chinese New Year Open House celebration in Malacca shows trishaws hold a special place in the hearts of many Malaysians. I hope Malaysia is able to look to the trishaw as appropriate urban transport for the modern age as well as a romantic reminder of their past.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

BikeBlog: Save the Pedicabs

Michael the BikeBlogging activist from Brooklyn made this great post back on the 14th of February.


I don't know that the confrontational approach is always the most effective when trying to gain acceptance from hostile councils or government bureaucrats but as the much used quote goes:
"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything"
Alex Hamilton (I think)

The Telegraph Calcutta, India
What do the educated people in Calcutta turn to when there aren't enough jobs for professionals?
When jobs are peddled, pedal out a future

Allie's 8th Day

I've been wondering what has been happening with Allie from Oceanside, who had recently embarked on an journey to pull a rickshaw from Oceanside CA. to Las Vegas Nevada. I'd followed the updates on his website but after day 7 there had been no entries for a couple of days.
It seems that after just 8 days Allie has had to end his journey. He has met with some of the hostility that pedestrians and cyclists are often confronted with when they try to use the roadways of the worlds.
You can read about Allies experience in the Palm Springs area by clicking Here.

I was sad to read of his experience but not surprised. I was not surprised to read of the hostility towards him or of the attitude of the police. Those guys probably had no idea what Allie was doing out there maybe they just saw an easy target and had what they consider to be fun? Maybe the police acted out of concern for Allie or maybe they didn't want the drama of protecting him from rednecks. Maybe sometimes it seems the only people we meet on the road are philistines and vandals. It must be near impossible for an enlightened soul to survive in this sort of company. How long can a man survive in that kind of environment? Who knows? I don't know. It seems to me that when people cease to care for one another it doesn't take long before personal suffering becomes unbearable.

Thanks Allie for being man enough to bear yourself to the world and to give it a go. You are an inspiration. We don't need martyrs just some people who can set a good example and you have done that in an exceptional way. I will look forward to reading your reflections on this journey, if you ever feel like writing about it.

Interesting post on Jetsettersblog about a rickshaw pullers bank project in India
Click Here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trishaw Stories

I've been talking to a friend at work who comes from a village near Penang in Malaysia. She recalls the days when trishaws were the most affordable mode of transport in her village and trishaw riders were respected in the community. I guess it's a combination of stories like these and the rapid disappearance of trishaws as a viable commuter vehicle that has spurred me on to create this blog. I hope, if I can find the time, to gather as much information as I can from people who have similar experiences so I can maybe present in some way a view of the world that might soon be lost from our collective memory. I suppose the blog is a way of expressing some of this publicly in the hope that others might ponder the same questions as me.
If I can get my act together I'd like to publish a little of my friends story about her childhood memories of trishaws, her village and the changes that have taken place over the past 30 odd years.

Allie's Progress

It seems that Allie is finding a few bumps in the road. The brief description of his experience on day seven of his journey gives a pretty clear impression of the loneliness that can be found on the road. I think traveling away from home can bring some challenging and threatening experiences particularly if you don't blend into the crowd(I don't recall seeing too many hand pulled rickshaws in Palm Springs when I was there). It must be a bit of an Odyssey for Allie right now, never knowing what kind of reception he may receive. A bit like the Samaritan in the bible, he might be finding people suspicious and distrusting. A good reminder of how important it is to have a caring community around you. Keep up the leg work Allie I think you'll gain from this something most of us never get to experience. Be safe. Peace!

A great photo of a hand pulled rickshaw in Kyoto Japan. Click Here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I've just discovered a new blog that appears to be devoted to the cause of increasing the 'Peddle Powered Urban Transport System'. (Hey I think I've just invented a phrase, don't know about the acronym though P.P.U.T.S)
The blog is called Vert-i-go and seems to center around the transport situation in the Authors town of Sheffield England. It seems to be quite well constructed. The theme is definitely one of peddle power advocacy and it provides some passionate arguments for the increase of human powered transport.

Check it out : Vert-i-go

(Well comparatively emission free, it will depend on what you had for breakfast. ha...ha..)

My apologies Vert-i-go for stealing your quot but I liked it too much.
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” H.G. Wells
(Isn't That cool!)

My work, shops and most other places I need to travel are well within riding distance from my home. I try to cycle as much as possible but have a young family who aren't always able to ride. Solution - get hold of a rickshaw and peddle them as often as I can! I expect to receive much protest from my wife and other road users but isn't it a cool concept? Unless I can find a fully enclosed air conditioned rickshaw that doesn't allow anyone to see in. I doubt I could coax my wife to go along with my little scheme. Imagine how much quieter and safer the road would be if everyone took a rickshaw for journeys less than 10 km.

Oh I almost forgot there's a video of Allie the American Rickshaw-wallah on the North County Times website. Check it out Here.
Listening to the interview I can't help thinking that Allie has taken his Shangra-La logo to heart and is bringing a little taste of Utopia to the people he passes along the way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Allie is about to embark on day four of his journey. This is a journey that will require immense physical and psychological strength and endurance. I wonder if the unnatural strain that pulling a rickshaw must put on the shoulders could lead to thoracic problems . I have bad shoulders and would fear doing permanent damage if I attempted anything like this. I hope Allies muscles are in good shape for the extra strain he will be enduring. However, acting out of gratitude to his community, Allie appears to be on a kind of spiritual mission that might just succeed despite the odds.

Allie at Oceanside prior to departure
(Photo courtesy of Shangra-la)

North Country Times
Oceanside man plans to pull rickshaw from Oceanside to Vegas

On day one Allie left Oceanside he is now somewhere near a place called Temecula.

If you're curious about why Allie would want to do this please read his Press Release

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In the News

A disgraceful practice that flourished when the British lorded over the people

New Rickshaw business in the Caymans

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Opposing views

Already as I read rickshaw related content on the internet I am finding this a hugely controversial subject. Coming from my western perspective living in an age of global warming and unprecedented environmental destruction I see the rickshaw as a symbol of the way I'd prefer the world. (Slower, quieter, more friendly...) However the rickshaw represents different things to different people. Through it's history it has also been a symbol of colonial power, oppression and a class system that devalued the lives of those who performed any menial, labour intensive work.
In no way would I condone these attitudes and I can understand why Asian countries would want to distance themselves from these images. However as with most things there has also evolved a culture independent of the oppressive exploitation that the vehicle had come to represent.
Rickshaws have also been used to perpetuate Asian stereotypes in western countries and therefore represent some kind of conceptual shackle; stereotypes create limitations and who wants to be limited? But these things are never straight forward and one man's stereotype might to another be his greatest source of cultural pride. There is also lack of cultural understanding or a lack of knowledge of the history of certain symbols. However I believe that history would also show that the meaning of symbols can change or be changed by the will of the people.

I am unqualified and under informed to debate this matter but I can say that I am aware of it's complexity. There was an ongoing debate on the net about the way a Christian organization advertised one of it's events. The following article gives a little of the picture.

I think the use of comedy is always good for turning the tables and satire can sometimes reverse the scorn in seconds. The sketch 'Babakiueria' on the ABC program BASICALLY BLACK is a great example.

From the ABC's 50 years Indigenous TV

NARRATOR: In 'Babakiueria' the move towards satirical comedy was extended further through the complete role reversal within society.

ABORIGINAL MAN: this place?

CAUCASIAN MAN: It's a barbeque area.

ABORIGINAL MAN: Babakiueria? They call this Babakiueria. Nice native name... colourful. I like it.

Of course stereotypes will always be created and used to offend or demean others. The rickshaw is not the cause of injustice it was merely a symbol, maybe it could become a symbol of liberation and freedom. By riding my bike my conscience is released from taking responsibility for many environmental and social problems...

P.S - 5:30 pm

Todays news
IBN Live India New Delhi

Rickshaw tracking sensors and new rickshaw policy

Interesting commentary on Mental Floss

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Allie the Rickshaw wallah

I only started the blog this week and already I have come across a few people who want to share their rickshaw stories with me. Who knows this may develop into a rich tapestry of human experience delivered at running/riding pace. That's just fast enough to get you there but slow enough to to see (smile at) what or who you are passing.

That reminds me of a movie I watched once and there was one scene in it that stopped me in my tracks. I can't remember how it went but this is how I like to remember it.
The protagonists were in a hurry it was crucial that they got away from or to something as quickly as they could but the elder (Indigenous Australian I think) he kept sitting down or wandering slowly, dwelling on one place or another. "What's the matter with you?"
"I can't go too fast my soul won't know where to find me" Proclaimed the old man. Well it went something like that can't remember for sure but the moral is sometimes we've just got to slow it all down so our souls can catch-up! That's fairdinkum!

So anyway I contacted that guy Allie and his publicist/friend shared Allie's Rickshaw-wallah motto with me.

"Shangri-La Is the legendary Heaven On Earth that everyone is always seeking. This imaginary Shangri-La has become synonymous with a mystical paradise on earth. Our goal is to offer you a heavenly ride that is always tranquil, safe and courteous."

Allie plans to pull his rickshaw from Oceanside (somewhere between Long Beach and San Diego CA, USA) to Las Vegas. Possibly a Guinness Record!

Allie and a friend

Have a nice day.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A great story about guy in the States who has taken up the rickshaw

I really liked this story and found that Allie has a website at:

The colonial yoke

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Rickshaws in movies

I think as I don't see many around town (there may be three trishaws) I will make a list of all the films I see with rickshaws or trishaws in them.

Last night my wife and I watched a film called the White Countess. It was set in Shanghai around about the late 1930's and they'd managed to get heaps of hand pulled rickshaws into the the street scenes.
Watching the men running around pulling these contraptions was fascinating. On one hand I thought great! Look at all those rickshaws, but on the other hand I thought gee look at all those poor guys reduced to carrying other people around. How degrading! I am curious about the ambivalence I feel regarding this issue. My sense of justice and equality tells me that it is wrong for a person to sit in a chair and be drawn around by another person. Who is so much more important than another that he or she should be able to ride them like a horse or use another as a beast of burden?
On the other hand why does the rickshaw puller take such a job? How does he feel about doing this kind of work? How does he view himself in this role? Maybe the man looks on this as simply a job and a means of putting food on his families table. Maybe he feels no shame in doing it at all and maybe he is proud of his strength and ability.

Know there was a system that functioned on serfdom in Asia as in Europe that persisted into the 19th century and I expect all the attitudes of class divided people back then would guarantee the rickshaw puller would have been a very low status job. But I can't help believing that the profession could earn considerably more respect today.

As I write this post I realize how little I know about the history or the rickshaw or the attitude people have toward them. I hope as I investigate and try to verify my suspicions or questions that I might gain a fuller understanding of what is now no more than a admiring curiosity for me.

Todays posts that mention rickshaws / trishaws

The author of the following page said this...

"It also feels like you're paying a slave to pedal you somewhere." "...our fantastic trishaw driver who..."

trishaw philosophy, meat, and travel

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Welcome to my Rickshaw Blog.
The objective of this blog is to bring together a lot of the stuff that comes to mind things I have discovered about the fate and future of human powered transportation. I will be scanning the internet for articles related to the plight of rickshaw pullers or riders in developing Asian countries as well as any points of interest from elsewhere on the planet. I also hope to be posting examples of the successful use of bicycle transport and the positive effect this has had on communities.
I suggest that rather than demoralize the rickshaw puller or cyclists this occupation elevates them spiritually, physically and creates business opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.

In many places today rickshaws are seen as an inconvenient obstruction to traffic and detract from the impression of modernity that so many cities are chasing. I find it ironic that in this time of global warming and congested city streets that peddle power is not seen as the modern progressive mode of transport in our cities of the future.

If you share my enthusiasm for the humble rickshaw or have any rickshaw stories that might appeal please post your comment on this blog.

Today's Rickshaw stories, news etc...