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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

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

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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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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