AskDefine | Define pedicab

Dictionary Definition

pedicab n : a tricycle (usually propelled by pedalling); used in the Orient for transporting passengers for hire; "boys who once pulled rickshaws now pedal pedicabs" [syn: cycle rickshaw]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A tricycle having a hooded cab to seat paying passengers

Extensive Definition

The cycle rickshaw, being a small-scale local means of transport, is also known by a variety of other names such as rickshaw, pedicab, bugbug, cyclo, or trishaw. Cycle rickshaws are human-powered, often used on a for hire basis, equipped with one or more seats for carrying passengers in addition to the driver. Cycle rickshaws are widely used in major cities around the world and are usually found in major urban centers, tourist attractions, and events that draw large crowds. Many cycle rickshaws have replaced less-efficient rickshaws that are pulled by a person on foot.


The vehicle is powered by a driver as one would a bicycle, though some increasingly popular configurations are equipped with an electric motor to assist the driver. The vehicle is usually a tricycle, though some quadricycle models exist, and some bicycles with trailers are configured as rickshaws. The configuration of driver and passenger seats vary by design, though passenger seats are usually located above the span of the longest axle. For example, in most of South Asia, the passenger seat is located behind the driver on a "delta" tricycle, while in Indonesia and Vietnam the driver sits behind the passenger seat on a "tadpole" tricycle. In the Philippines, the passenger seats are usually located beside the driver.


Cycle rickshaws are known as cyclo (pronounced see-clo) in Cambodia and Vietnam, cycle rickshaw in India and Bangladesh, trishaw () from "tricycle rickshaw", in Malaysia and Singapore, becak in Indonesia and bicitaxi or taxi ecologico (literally "ecological taxi") in Mexico. In the Philippines, they are called tricycle/traysikel, traysikad, pedicab, or padyak. Cycle rickshaws are known as saika in Myanmar, a transliteration of English "side car". In the United Kingdom and United States cycle rickshaws are more widely pedicabs. In Buffalo, New York, this type of vehicle is known as a bike taxi.
  • In Thailand, any three-wheeler is called samlor (, which literally means "three wheels"), whether motorized or not, including pedicabs, motorcycles with attached vending carts or sidecars, etc. The driver is also called samlor. True, Thai auto rickshaws are known in popular parlance as tuk-tuks but, in Thai, the latter usage as well as its characteristic style is largely restricted to Bangkok and Chiangmai.

A global concept

Cycle rickshaws are used in most large European cities, such as London, Barcelona, Budapest, Berlin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan and Rome. London boasts one of the largest numbers of pedicabs, that are mostly based in Soho, Covent Garden and near tourist attractions. In North America, San Diego and New York City each host hundreds of pedicabs; dozens of other North American cities also have pedicab services. There are several American and European manufacturers of cycle rickshaws, which often incorporate features not found in developing world vehicles, such as hydraulic disc brakes, and lightweight fibreglass bodies, multispeed gears. In American cities, such as New York, human powered transport has caught on as an environmentally friendly means of transit. According to Peter Meitzler of New York's Manhattan Rickshaw Company, a passenger has an entirely different urban experience when one rides in a rickshaw. He says that he uses the word "rickshaw" in his company name because it is internationally known.

Economic and political aspects

In many Asian cities where they are widely used, rickshaw driving provides essential employment for recent immigrants from rural areas, generally impoverished men. One study in Bangladesh showed that rickshaw driving was connected with some increases in income for poor agricultural laborers who moved to urban areas, but that the extreme physical demands of the job meant that these benefits decreased for long-term drivers. In Jakarta, most rickshaw drivers in the 1980s were former landless agricultural laborers from rural areas of Java.
In 2003, Dhaka rickshaw drivers earned an estimated average of Tk 143 (US$2.38) per day, of which they paid about Tk 50 (US$0.80) to rent the rickshaw for a day. Older, long-term drivers earned substantially less. In many cities, most drivers do not own their own rickshaws; instead, they rent them from their owners, some of whom own many rickshaws. Driver-ownership rates vary widely. In Delhi, a 1980 study found only one percent of drivers owned their vehicles, but ownership rates in several other Indian cities were much higher, including fifteen percent in Hyderabad and twenty-two percent in Faridabad. A 1977 study in Chiang Mai, Thailand found that 44% of rickshaw drivers were owners. In Bangladesh, driver-ownership is usually highest in rural areas and lowest in the larger cities. Most rickshaws in that country are owned by individuals who have only one or two of them, but some owners in the largest cities own several hundred.. In Dhaka and Jakarta, they are no longer permitted on major roads, but are still used to provide transportation within individual urban neighborhoods. They are banned entirely in Pakistan. While they have been criticized for causing congestion, rickshaws are also often hailed as environmentally-friendly, inexpensive modes of transportation.
In Taiwan, the Road Traffic Security Rules (zh:道路交通安全規則) require pedicabs to be registered by their owners with the police before they can be legally driven on public roads, or risk an administrative fine of 300 new Taiwan dollars (TWD). Their drivers must carry the police registration documents or risk a fine of 180 TWD, but no driver license is required. The administrative fines are based on Articles 69 and 71 of the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road traffic Regulations (zh:道路交通管理處罰條例). As Taiwanese road traffic is now heavily motorized, most pedicabs have been replaced by taxicabs, but they can still be found at limited places, such as Cijin District of Kaohsiung City.

Places where cycle rickshaws are regulated

Places where cycle rickshaws are prohibited


As a key part of the urban landscape in many cities, rickshaws have been both the subject of films and other artwork, as well as being extensively decorated themselves. The rickshaws in Dhaka is especially well-known as a major venue for Bengali folk art; there, plasticine cutouts and handpainted figures adorn many rickshaws.
Films featuring rickshaws and their drivers include Sammo Hung's 1989 martial arts film Pedicab Driver, which dealt with a group of pedicab drivers and their problems with romance and organized crime. Cyclo, a 1995 film by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung, is centered on a cycle rickshaw driver. Tollywood films with rickshaw themes include Orey Rickshaw ("Orey" literally means "Hey", in a derogatory tone), which tells a story sympathising with the downtrodden, and Rickshavodu ("Rickshaw Guy").
Men of burden - Pedaling towards a Horizon (2006) is documentary film on Cycle rickshaw men in Pondicherry, India.
pedicab in German: Fahrradrikscha
pedicab in Spanish: Bicitaxi
pedicab in Persian: ریکشای رکابی
pedicab in Indonesian: Becak
pedicab in Japanese: 自転車タクシー
pedicab in Norwegian: Sykkeltaxi
pedicab in Vietnamese: Xích lô
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