Cycle Rickshaws
Left Behind

The cycle rickshaw is one of the oldest existing forms of transportation in India. It is a local form of transportation used for traveling short distances. Cycle rickshaws are human-powered; drivers peddle passengers sitting in the rear cab of a tricycle. Cycle rickshaws have a variety of alternative names, such as pedicab, bike cab, cyclo, becak, or trishaw.

The rise of automotive transportation has outpaced the cycle rickshaw. Cycle rickshaws have been rendered an antiquated form of transportation. Buses, cabs and auto-rickshaws are significantly faster and easier ways of getting from one place to another in both cities and rural areas.

The Indian government has done nothing to support the preservation of this traditional form of transportation. In Delhi, the government has gone as far as to restrict the use of cycle rickshaws because they are seen to slow down traffic and cause congestion.

However, cycle rickshaws fill key economic and environmental niches. First, they are nonpolluting—something rare amidst the densely trafficked and smoggy streets of urban India. Second, many cycle rickshaw drivers are from marginalized backgrounds. These people depend on this source of income. Often, the money earned by a single cycle-rickshaw driver is the single source of money for an entire family. Many of these drivers are under or uneducated, which makes it difficult for them to find other jobs.

In this report, Sarwat investigates the disappearance of India’s traditional cycle rickshaws.


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