Can a means of transport be “lean, clean, green”, but also problematic as irregular practice, working in an unregulated market?
Yes. An example is the rickshaw business in Dublin.
From a political perspective, a formal issue has been raised on 2016 in the Dáil when Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster asked Minister for Transport Shane Ross if he’d considered banning them [source].
The rickshaw is a two or three-wheeled passenger cart, which can move through pedals, human pulling, or through a motor.
This means of transport, light-compact-silent, is extremely versatile as it can work for people’s mobility but also as promotional vehicle, for advertising [example]. In Dublin, for example, it’s very popular for both purposes; in Asia-Indonesia it looks more popular as alternative to standard cabs/taxi.
In my opinion the main issue related to the rickshaws in Ireland is it’s hybrid nature, which is also it’s biggest advantage.
As pedal-powered rickshaws fall within the category of ‘pedal cycles’, they are not considered small public service vehicle (as taxis are). Accordingly, authorities as the National Transport Authority (NTA) hasn’t the power to ban them.
This also means that :
- the Taxi drivers community is not happy about them [for unfair competition];
- Irish Revenue is not happy because drivers do not pay taxes on their incomes;
- The more conservative part of local pedestrians/drivers may not happy either, as it may not feel confident dealing with rickshaws in the traffic nor in walking areas (as I am not sure rickshaws are even covered by any insurance in case of accident).
Rickshaw business in Dublin is very similar to other growing businesses in other Countries, which start from an idea, they grow without control because unregulated but then, as they have success and make money, they become more and more unwelcome to others working in similar markets.
Then the main question: who is making money on this?
Drivers nationalities are [by taking a look around in town]: +90% South-americans [usually Brazilians] ; 8% Asians ; 2% n/a. Being a rickshaw driver is a perfect job for a non-European young person who wants to improve his/her local language [i.e. English] and earn some money without all the bureaucracy related to working Visa and such.
Job applications as rickshaw driver are as easy as mysterious. Take a look to this ad : no official websites, no direct contacts, this job is offered as “… the opportunity to make up to 50euros/hour…”. Not bad huh?!
Detractors state that rickshaws cabs in Dublin may have relation with drug-dealing [I don’t know], that they are more expensive than a taxi [but it depends by the range you need to cover, as for short distances they are definitely cheaper and faster than taxi]. The ugly truth is that this service is popular because it works, and it works because it was needed, as short range relocation is very very popular in the hyperactive Dublin night-life.
And, you know, when something it’s very strong, it keeps its way up: for this 2017 the NTA will not implement rickshaw law, as regulations are not sufficiently robust to restrict this means of transport, apparently.
“Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful”. Stephen King.