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When in Manhattan, don't forget rickshaw

When in Manhattan, don't forget rickshaw

Author: Bhupesh Bhandari
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: November 16, 2001

On your next visit to Manhattan, you may have the option to travel from one appointment to another in a cycle rickshaw put together at Agra. Srichakra Cycles Pvt Ltd is in negotiations with Manhattan Taxi Service to supply rickshaws at $500 apiece.

"The rickshaw costs $100 to make. We are also likely to bag some orders from Canada," says Srichakra Cycle chief executive Atul Dwivedi.

According to Dwivedi, in some of the crowded lanes and bylanes of Manhattan, movement by car has become very difficult.

"A rickshaw is being seen as an environment-friendly alternative," he said. Hence, the demand for the rickshaws his company produces at Agra. These, mind you, are not the millions of rickshaws moving at a groaning pace all over India. These are modern tricycles, developed after years of research.

The project was kicked off four years ago by an NGO called India Cyclerickshaw Improvement Project. Funded by USAID, engineers from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and Canada worked on improving the rickshaw.

About 10 prototypes were developed and finally, two were selected-the Delhi model and the Agra model. While the Delhi model is 36 inches wide, the Agra model is 34 inches wide.

The new rickshaw is almost 45 kg lighter than the traditional rickshaw-while the older models weigh 95-100 kg, the new ones weigh 50-55 kg. They come with a two-sped gear option, which reduces the human effort by 17 per cent when the rickshaw is moving up an incline. Overall, the human effort in pulling this rickshaw is half of pulling the older rickshaw.

As per people involved with the project, there are 15 million rickshaws in the country providing employment to 30 million people. "The possibilities of the new rickshaws are immense," one such person said.

Instead of wood, it uses steel tubes. With a lower chassis, it does not topple. As the seats are made of nylon, the jerks too are reduced. And its life is six times the life of the older model.

What is more, it costs more or less the same as a traditional rickshaw. The modification in the export models is that the seats have been made more comfortable.

To be sure, about 20 of these post-modern rickshaws are already plying abroad-at Oxford. After seeing the rickshaws in India, an environment-friendly transporter took some of these to Oxford where she is operating a paddle taxi service.

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