Travelling by Rickshaw

Definitely green - but rush hour proof?

The rickshaw has now been with us for a few years but where on earth did they come from. As a seasoned SE Asia vet I have taken my life in my hands travelling by rickshaw in busy cities from Bangkok and Naypyidaw - but never before in London. Unfortunately it is not yet regulated in the UK (and therefore London yet) but I can confirm that I used a lot less adrenaline when last I ventured out into the London rush hour. In fact the journey, from Covent Garden to Victoria station was a lot less fraught that I had envisaged and the only problem was the general traffic flow.

So where did they come from? Well....rickshaws originated as two wheeled passenger carts pulled by a single rickshaw wallah (person involved with a specific business). They were invented in Japan in 1869 and quickly became an inexpensive popular form of transport across Asia.

The original pulled or handheld rickshaws represented times long gone, those of a feudal master slave relationship where the passenger sits in comfort while being pulled along by the immensely hard working rickshaw wallah. Life expectancy was very low and fortunately the vast majority (sadly, still in existence in some cities like Kolkatta, India where they provide a living for the very poor) no longer exist having migrated to the much more efficient and acceptable cycle and auto rickshaws.

Cycle Rickshaws quickly evolved from pulled rickshaws going on to number over four million globally. Whilst primarily used for their novelty value, as an entertaining form of transportation for tourists and locals, they are also environmentally friendly and quicker than other forms of transport in areas of traffic congestion with multiple gears and occasionally electrical motors improving performance.

Cycle rickshaws were introduced to Cambridge and then moved to London in 1998 where they operate in central London around Leicester Square and Covent Gardens. Approaching 1,000 in number, they are also found in central Edinburgh and Oxford. The longest journey by cycle rickshaw is 2,597 km by Scott Thompson (UK) who cycled from Banda Aceh, Indonesia to Tangerang, Indonesia in October 2015.