Avoid like the plague — 02 February 2010

As you go about your busy lives, you might be forgiven to having missed this important date, for today is Groundhog Day. The day, according to American folklore that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. Only in America could a ceremony like this about a rodent have been dreamed up, and made an annual holiday to boot.

Like Bill Murray in the 1993 film of the same name, I seem to be experiencing a recurring nightmare. Every day I go to work or sit down to write for CabbieBlog, it’s the same problem over and over again, yes it’s that Rickshaw post again.

As unbelievable as it seems, in London in the 21st Century there is still a major problem with Rickshaws. Whilst the third world is doing all it can to lose the last of these degrading pedal powered contraptions, some unscrupulous operators are clogging up the streets of the Metropolis with these dangerous and sometimes illegal vehicles.

It’s not a matter of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’ a serious accident or fatality involving a London rickshaw takes place. The rickshaw drivers do not have criminal record checks, and are not tested on road safety or their knowledge of London streets, with the result that the streets of Soho and Covent Garden have become a dangerous free for all with over 400 plying for hire and already one London pedicab driver has been convicted of raping a passenger.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that riders include illegal immigrants, foreign students who are ignoring the terms under which they are in the country by working longer hours than allowed and others who, under any sensible licensing regime, would be considered unsuitable for this kind of work. Do they have a rickshaw rider recruiting office in Krakow, because their numbers seem to rise exponentially by the week?

The safety of these vehicles is horrendous, the Transport Research Laboratory looked at the possible safety implications of allowing the continued use of these vehicles for hire and reward in London. Its scientists warned that “any impact with a motor vehicle” was likely to result in ‘serious injury to both passengers and riders’. Transport Research Laboratory also warned that ‘The standard of braking for a Rickshaw fell well short of that expected of a car’. The London Taxi Drivers’ Association are calling on Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority to bring a halt to London’s further decline into third world status and seek statutory powers to ban Rickshaws from the streets. With health and safety becoming a mantra to every council employee, how is it that these contraptions are ever allowed to ply for hire in London’s streets? They congregate in large numbers outside theatres, shops and restaurants blocking the entrances and exits as well as the pavements outside, forcing pedestrians to negotiate the traffic as they walk in the road and blocking fire escapes.

As a result of the media attention into all the problems associated with the Rickshaws and serious concerns over their safety, the Rickshaw operators are pushing for a simple licensing system that would allow them to continue working unhindered. London’s taxi drivers along with bus operators and drivers have to contend with the traffic problems and congestion and feel that the only way forward is to – Ban! Don’t License.

Boris should stop worrying about his bike hire scheme and concentrated his attention on why London councils allow three or four children at a time to balance on these death traps and then be driven the wrong way up a one-way street.

I’m going to lay down now, I feel so tired after that rant, but I’ve got a good idea what will confront me when I wake.

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Gibson

(8) Readers Comments

  1. just stumbled on your blog by accident,its the first time i have read one ! really interesting please keep it going .

  2. “London rickshaws” that would be fun! I’ll make sure to ride one when I visit London. I went for a China Tour last year. There I rode a rickshaw…it was fun :)

    • Rickshaws are not much fun in London, they are just dangerous, its only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt.

  3. loved reading your article…the issues you raised must be valid, but personally i really enjoy riding rickshaws :)


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    • You would not like riding in a rickshaw in London

  4. The pedicab service is popular because it provides a service people want, the fact that it has been slandered by a strong interest group (black cabs) still does not change the facts.

    1. No serious injury have happened to any passenger in London, on a trike which travels at around 8mph.
    2. They do not add to congestion, just look at central London roads each morning and tell us if you see any pedicabs/rickshaws.
    3. Passengers pre-agree the price (per person) and most tip, so they must be happy with the service.
    4. Pedicabs/rickshaws don’t pollute the air and they happen to be the only green public available transport.
    5. Pedicabs/rickshaws empower people who work hard for the money they take home, they don’t just step on the gas.
    6. As in all walks of life the majority are good guys.
    7. They have been able to ply for hire since 2001, the same as a black cab since the London Taxi Drivers Association tried to remove them with a private prosecution in the high court (and failed).

    Pedicabs offer a great way to make a living and are a part of the solution to a greener way of life.

    • You won’t be surprised when I say as a Black London Cabbie, I would like to see Pedicabs banned for all the reasons I have expressed on many occasions.
      Furthermore I’ve had a number of passengers of mine say they would not again get into a Pedicab after their first experience.
      But thank you for taking the time to comment so comprehensively on CabbieBlog.
      In the interest of balance I will of course approve your comments for public view.

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