September 27, 2017

Rickshaws rock

I remember my first tuk-tuk ride in 1997 in Bangkok. I loved the no seatbelt, no frills, no windows openness and exposure to everything that is going on around you. Tuk-tuk rides provide a primal rush, and depending on your driver, are just a little bit scary. I position them between motorcycles and cars on the adrenal spectrum. Yee-hah!
I still love tuk-tuks, in all their iterations throughout Asia, to this day. So let me gush a bit about these three-wheeled meisters of mobility and add a few anecdotes.
Described as tuk-tuks by Thais, autorickhaws (or just plain “autos”) by Indians, and with other local tags in other countries, they are basically people movers: no-nonsense ways for average people on a budget to get move from point A to point B. Autorickshaws are made to shuttle people around in urban areas which usually have tight, narrow streets and – these days – immense traffic jams.

Quick, yes. (Maneuverability in the traffic snarls is a bonus.)

Safe, no. Not really. (But to repeat what I wrote above, that’s part of their allure.)

Cute, absolutely.

And they enhance your cultural knowledge because you usually have to bargain with the driver to figure out a price before you get in. (No set price = you will get screwed, big-time.)

Environmentally friendly? (Debatable.)

Presumably tuk-tuks are so named so because of the sound their two-stroke gas engines make. In India, many of the autos have converted to natural gas, which generates an off-putting pervasive fart smell whenever a driver pulls in to top off his CNG tank. (And yes, there are no women drivers that I have ever seen anywhere.) But they all emit CO2 gas, which leads me to…e-autorickshaws!
In recent weeks I have seen new electrically-powered autorickshaws on the streets of Gurgaon. What a great idea. The Indian government’s recent push to have new vehicle sales be all-electric by 2030 seems to be have been kicked off with this e-auto initiative. Our lungs thank them for the effort. So we will be able to have the fun and adventure of riding in a tuk-tuk without adding to the hazy brown skies and alarming particulate matter figures in India’s big cities. 

Here are a few photos of the popular forms of mobility in my current city.
The family that rides together, stays together

Old school, baby!
The black-colored autos are designated routes that people use instead of public buses. Very cheap.

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