Rickshaw Types in Northern India

We have now been to Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra on this trip and the rickshaws in each stop were basically the same and came in two form factors:

  1. Simple:

    Small Indian Rickshaw

    These are smaller with a simple, short, shallow passenger area. An advantage with this configuration is that the rickshaws can also handle cargo duty. I saw multiple of these rickshaws with cargo, and though there is still a capacity hit from having the passenger-centric area, it is much more cargo usable than other designs I’ve seen. The most quirky part of these is the two wedges of wood underneith the passenger compartment which sets the seat and floorboard at an odd angle, sloping towards the rider. I thought this was a hack at first, but I saw this all over the place, and the paint matched as well.

  2. Deluxe:

    Deluxe Rickshaw

    I rode on one of these this week. They have a canopy over the passengers, the passenger area is larger than the “Simple” ones, and there is room to put luggage under the seat. Some of these have mesh seats rather than a padded one as pictured here.

The rickshaws are certainly different in India than my Chinese one. Both styles are smaller, more practical, and likely lighter. The build on the Indian ones, overall, appears to be superior as well.

Rickshaw Ride in Jaipur, India

It finally happened. I got to ride on a rickshaw in India.

I forgot my camera so there’s no footage, but here’s a picture. On the back is a fellow MBA student’s wife, Marsha Condie.

On the back with Marsha Conde

Our driver did not speak English, but he flagged a friend over from nearby to translate. We only had 15 minutes for a ride, so it was a quick loop.

It’s odd to be on the back. I am rarely there on my own Rickshaw. Then there was the whole other thing about being half a world away.

Our driver was a pro, and he negotiated traffic and got us around an back in time. Marsha got a huge kick out of the ride. I was also entertained. Everything was smaller: the driver, the rickshaw, the overall trip.

The total fare was 50 Indian Rubies (about $1 US) but I was so pleased with the ride I gladly paid double. I did pick up on the frame before I left and it was notably lighter than my Rickshaw. It was also quite a bit smaller.

It was cool to take a ride in such a different environment and with a friendly professional at the helm.

Rickshaws in Delhi and New Delhi, India

As part of the NNU MBA program, I am in India right now. This is the only time I’ve been in Asia, and it has been a rewarding journey so far. Something wonderful about being here is seeing rickshaws rolling around in a native environment. Here’s some video from the back of the tour bus:

The environment and conditions these rickshaws operate in are far removed from my own scenario in Boise. Some obvious differences are:

  • Rickshaw related:
    • The rickshaws themselves are less elaborate. No coil spring suspension or full canopies. There’s also none of the added bling we’ve added to my Rickshaw over the years such as the deluxe canopy with integrated LED lights.
    • Brakes: The brakes are often calipers on the front forks. This might be preferred.
    • Design: There seems to be two main kinds of cycle rickshaws here in Delhi/New Delhi. Both are less elaborate than my Chinese rickshaw, though they are likely lighter, more maneuverable, and are better suited for cargo. More practical.
  • Environment related:
    • These guys ride for a living. It isn’t hobby time.
    • The traffic conditions are far different. There are no designated bike lanes. There is far more traffic to contend with. There isn’t a prevalent separated bike roadway like in Boise (Greenbelt). There is a lot of road anarchy going on in the streets, and it pays to be large and powerful. The rickshaws don’t win these battle against the many kinds of vehicles them it in size (auto rickshaws, tiny cars, cars, SUVs, trucks).

I’d love to roll this city for an hour as a rickshaw operator. The traffic would be scary, and I’d be worthless in that even if I could understand where people wanted to go, I wouldn’t know how to get there. Physically, I’m up for it, though. I’m used to single speeds, these rickshaws look lighter and their passengers on average are small (it is India). Hard to say what the rolling resistance is like without hopping on one, because a variety of factor such as tire air pressure come into play.

All in all, it is interesting to see rickshaws in use in a ‘native environment’. From what I’ve seen, Boise is a much more pleasant place to roll, but far less exciting.

Rickshaw restrictions in Asia

Here in Boise my Rickshaw is a hobby, but in other parts of the world the Rickshaw is an important form of transportation. Something I’ve noticed in my casual looks around the web is that as countries in Asia become more developed, the Rickshaw gets the short end of the stick. The primary concern seems to be traffic flow.

We are fortunate to have bike lanes in Boise. The system is far from complete and still needs work, but I use these “Rickshaw lanes” throughout the Rickshaw Season (and on a bike as well).

Here’s a comment recently received:

Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact of Rickshaw Bans in Dhaka

Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometers. These trips are perfect of Rickshaws. Rickshaws are cheap and popular mode of transport over short distances. Rickshaws are safe, environmentally friendly and do not rely on fossil fuels. Rickshaws support a significant portion of the population, not only the pullers, but also their families in the villages, the mechanics who fix the rickshaws, as well as street hawkers who sell them food. From the raw materials to the finished product the Rickshaw employs some 38 different professions. Action needs to be taken to support the Rickshaw instead of further banning it in Dhaka. The combined profits of all Rickshaws out earn all other passenger transport modes (bus, rail, boats and airlines) combined. In Dhaka alone, Rickshaw pullers combine to earn 20 million taka a month.

We think that over the coming holiday of Eid du Ajah, new Rickshaw bans will be put into action on roads in Dhaka. Eid was used in the past to place new bans on roads in Dhaka. Last Eid many roads were declared Rickshaw free without public support or approval. By banning Rickshaws roads are clogged with increased private car use as well as increased parking by cars. Banning of Rickshaws on major roads increases the transportation costs for commuters. Not only due to longer trips to avoid roads with bans in effect, but also due to actually having to take more expensive forms of transport such as CNG or Taxi, where in the past a Rickshaw would suffice. The environmental impact of banning Rickshaws is obvious because it exchanges a non-motorized form of transport for a motorized form of transport, thus increasing the pollution and harming the environment. Rickshaw bans harm the most vulnerable in society, mainly the sick, poor, women, children and the elderly; generally those who can not afford or do not feel comfortable on other forms of public transport. To ban Rickshaws also hurts small businesses that rely on them as a cheap and reliable form of transporting their goods. Rickshaws are ideal for urban settings because they can transport a relatively large number of passengers while taking up a small portion of the road. In 1998 the data showed that Rickshaws took up 38% of road space while transporting 54% of passengers in Dhaka . The private cars on the other hand, took up 34% of road space while only transporting 9% of the population (1998 DUTP). This data does not include the parking space on roads that cars take up in Dhaka . If included this would further raise the amount of space taken up by private cars. Every year the Rickshaw saves Bangladesh 100 billion taka in environmental damage.

The government makes many efforts to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka but with no success. Blaming Rickshaws for traffic congestion and subsequently banning them from major roads has not had the desired affect. Traffic is still as bad now as it was before the Rickshaws were banned on major roads. Rickshaws thus can not be seen as the major cause of traffic congestion. Instead one should look towards private cars and private car parking on roads as the major cause of traffic congestion. The space gained by banning Rickshaws is often used for private car parking. The current trend in transport planning reduces the mobility of the majority for the convenience of the minority. The next time a ban on Rickshaws on another road is discussed please take into consideration who is being hurt and who is being helped. For a better transport system in Dhaka we need to create a city wide network of Rickshaw lanes. If this is done Dhaka can reduce its fuel usage dramatically as well its pollution. We ask your help in our fight to keep Dhaka a Rickshaw city. Any information or help is very much appreciated and sought after. I write you this letter to describe the difficulties we are facing and some solutions but they are by no means exhaustive and we look forward to your help and input.

Syed Saiful Alam
Volunteer of Save Environment Movement