food / travel

Third-World Rickshaws Rolling Into Fancy Switzerland -- High-Tech Style, Of Course

Bicycle paths in some Swiss cities are about to crowd up as motorized, 3-wheel rickshaw taxis come to town.

Taking a spin in the new urban transportation mode in Bern
Taking a spin in the new urban transportation mode in Bern

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Zurich's taxi drivers are about to get some unusual competition: rickshaws will soon be rolling through the city's streets. But these are no bamboo jobs from the poor corners of Asia. The 3-wheel bicycle-style rickshaws weigh around 140 kilos (308.6 lbs), and besides leg power are also driven by electric motor.

While they can't go as fast as a car, they do have an edge over regular taxis since they can use bicycle lanes. Thomas Matter, who owns the Bern-based company that builds the vehicles, says bike-lane access will mean rickshaws will actually make it faster to get around downtown at peak hours.

Running rickshaw taxis, which are also being introduced in Basel and Bern, was made possible by a decision of the Swiss Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy, and Communications (ASTRA). However, to get permission to run rickshaws, they had to have extra strength added to the brakes: the front wheel and hand brakes had originally been deemed too weak by authorities. Now, the two-passenger vehicles are equipped with powerful downhill brakes, and are ready to go.

Customers in Zurich are expected to be tourists and business people. Matter says the rickshaws are expected to appeal to "guests who enjoy new experiences." However, he admits that for longer distances, and at non-peak hours, the rickshaws are not as fast as automobile taxis.

Read the original article in German by Simon Eppenberger

photo - rikschataxi

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