Ride the bicycle rickshaw – India’s sustainable transport

The bicycle rickshaw is a widely used in many Asian countries for short distance travel, especially in eco sensitive areas and cities. The mode of transport is similar to carts pulled by horses; the sole difference being here is that the muscular animal is replaced by usually impecunious men whose impoverished condition has forced them to look for a physically strenuous job for some extra money. In India the rickshaw pullers are often people who have moved to urban areas to look for some extra money due to failure of income from their agricultural labour jobs. The lure is off course only the money they can make though the task is more physically demanding. The strenuous work of pulling the passengers in the cart, especially when they are going uphill takes its toll on the health of the rickshaw pullers who finally end up spending their earning on hospitals and medications.

Bicycle Rickshaw in India
Bicycle Rickshaw in India

Why bicycle rickshaw?

Why do we need to travel in a bicycle rickshaw? The question will crop up in the mind of the people, especially those who haven’t experienced personally the ride in a rickshaw as to why this slow and old model of transport is required in a day when there are so many motorized vehicles available for us.

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In eco sensitive places like Matheran (hill station in Maharashtra), where motorized vehicles are banned, and in cities like Delhi, where the crowd does not facilitate travelling by motorized vehicles in places like Chandni Chowk, people, especially the tourists have to resort to Bicycle Rickshaw as a final resort. Many people enjoy the ride in the rickshaw as the efficient rickshaw pullers take them gliding through the narrow lanes, shouting at the passersby “Jara Hatke bhai” “ toda side dedo saab”, thus making way through crowds, allowing the rider to enjoy a different experience of ride all together.

Some local people also prefer the bicycle rickshaws as they can be fast, handy and cheaper than any other mode of transport. We cannot say the same for the tourists though, as the rickshaw pullers are known to quote a price at the start of the journey only to increase it at the end of the journey.  Most of the tourists cave in to the demands of the rickshaw pullers, and get ripped for more than they should have actually paid.

Rickshaws in Delhi

A rickshaw ride through the lanes of Old Delhi, a city that has managed to hold on to its roots and culture under the onslaught on modernization, is an amazing experience that should not be missed by anyone visiting the city. There are various pre-designated travel routes through which the rickshaws will take the tourists through, to give a glimpse into the interior of the city where the crowded lanes are filled with shops, hawkers and roadside eateries. The rickshaws have been updated to lure foreign tourists with amenities like comfortable cushioned seats, safety seat belts, first aid kits, holders for water bottles etc. The tour usually runs through sites like the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, Gauri Shanker Temple, Sunheri Masjid, Khari Baoli, Rang Mahal and many more.

Rickshaws in Delhi
Rickshaws in Delhi

Ethical issues

In many places, people often come across the beautifully decorated bicycle rickshaws standing on the road side, where the rickshaw pullers shout out various lucrative offers to attract passengers.

Many travellers go through the ethical dilemma of sitting in comfort in the backseat of a vehicle, when the fellow human being is struggling in the front. But then, they also realize that by taking the ride, they will be providing some income to the person, which they would take away from him, by refusing the ride. For many this is the sole way of providing utterly basic necessity for his family.

The saddest part of the whole scenario comes from the extortion carried out by the police and other related officers in the name of legal issues from the rickshaw pullers.  Rickshaw pullers often are subjected to violence due to their social status and economic condition, they are easy prey to police, fellow road users who are offended by the way they obstruct their path and also at times by the passengers who are enraged with higher demands of pay.

What the government should do is to provide a life of dignity, fair wages to the man using his energy to pull another man to his destination thus giving us cleaner cities and sustainable transportation which helps in maintenance of ecological balance.

Travel India: Enjoying India to the Fullest: Things to do in India

So don’t be afraid to ride the rickshaw in India.

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24 thoughts on “Ride the bicycle rickshaw – India’s sustainable transport”

  1. Rickshaw is a good alternative in India. Cabs and other hired mode of transportation are very costly ans middle class people cannot afford them. Rickshaw is cheaper and can be hired easily by common man also it reach at conjusted places where other means are unable to reach.

  2. Excellent blog…thanks for sharing such things…its very interesting…
    i’m searching for this information from long time…keep on posting more blogs…

  3. Hello Shalu, I often visit your website to check out latest post. You share real thoughts into your posts. It’s really an awesome quality of your, and I like it. I traveled in Bangladesh, on of the Asian countries last year.

    It was an amazing experience, specially the rickshaw journey, I’ve had on beach side name Cox’s Bazaar. They work extremely hard to earn money, and I have noticed they seem enjoy doing this type of work (though it’s a very difficult, but genuine way to earn money).

    Shalu have you tried rickshaw riding so far? 😉

  4. I love this article, brings a new perspective on how people live their lives given the boundaries they have. I think rickshaw pullers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Carry someone on an uphill is very difficult and it is a share that the police sometimes messes up with them. It is a legitimate work and an efficient way given India’s not so developed infrastructure.

  5. Bicycle rickshaw is one of the most common transports of India. I use to ride this transport everyday. Millions of people manage their wages by pulling bicycle rickshaw. Sometimes people like to take trip by a rickshaw for some recreations. But unfortunately the rickshaw pullers are not valued much in our society. We should change this mentality and never underestimate anyone.

  6. Amazing article. Learnt so much about the bicycle rickshaw. Such a cool means of transportation, but I prefer animals riding it instead of human beings, though I understand the situation that led to that. Thanks for this wonderful piece

  7. Rickshaw is the best thing for transport in india. 1st this will give employment to poor people and 2nd thing this does not cause pollution.

  8. what a fantastic post! this so chock full of Rickshaw informations.I can’t wait to dig deep and start utilizing the resources you have given me. your exuberance is refreshing.


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