Riding in a Rickshaw

This post is from the point of view of the auto rickshaw – or as I like to call it, “the scourge of the developing world’s road network.”

OK so maybe that’s a bit over the top; but as exhibit A, I present the fact that in Mumbai, they have banned auto rickshaws from the center of the city because traffic has just gotten too crazy.

In Chennai, they’re a common sight – probably only outnumbered by motorcycles, which can be seen carrying anywhere from one to four passengers, some seated traditionally, others sidesaddle (see, that’s the thing about saris.  For the same reason, motorcycle operators are overwhelmingly male).

Don’t know what an auto rickshaw is?  It’s basically a moped on steroids.  Also known as a three-wheeler, samosa, tempo, tuk-tuk, trishaw, auto, rickshaw, autorick, bajaj, tricycle, mototaxi, baby taxi, or lapa, it’s a three-wheeled moped-type cycle, often with a four-stroke engine and a few gears – but most significantly, a cabin to the rear of the driver.  There are no seatbelts, they can tip over (three wheels, you see…) and I don’t believe their drivers are subject to any sort of licensing requirement.  They all come equipped with a meter, but I’ve never seen one in operation.  Basically, I can go all over town for about 100 rupees ($1.70 or so) for a one-way trip.  I’m fully aware the locals pay less, but whatever…

So when you visit a city where these things are prevalent, it’s fun to ride in them – kind of a novelty.  But when you live in such a city and lack a driver’s license, and it’s your driver’s day off, well, the novelty will soon wear off, I’m sure.

This is what such a ride can look like.  For the first half of the video, I was trying to get from A to B.  If you think the roads are crowded, they’re not – Sunday is by far less crowded than any other day.  But in the second half of the video, “Anthony”, a driver who was intent on touring me around the city all day (I stopped him), is taking me through the market on the street where he lives.  We pass his wife and daughter at one point, he invites me in for coffee (I decline), and we continue on at walking speed. Oh – and those times where it looks like we’re about to hit someone head-on? It’s not an optical illusion – it looks exactly the same to the occupant.

So that was the view straight ahead.  What sorts of things do you see zipping by on a Sunday?  See below:

Chennai Streets

Chennai Streets

Chennai Streets

Chennai Streets

Most of today’s photos are not that great, from a photographic perspective, but I kind of like this one, just because of the bright colors and “buzz”:
Chennai Streets

All of the cargo trucks have things painted on the back – very often it says “sound horn” like on this one. I like to think this is actually the reason for all the honking in traffic. Silly truck drivers and their paint!

Chennai Streets

I was told not to post this billboard because it seems snooty to poke fun at it. But the point is, they’re working on your heart, not editing your dissertation:


I decided to put all the remaining photos in a collage, since they all have issues like blurring, framing and composition problems. Basically I held my camera on my lap and snapped photos as I was driving. Then I had to cut parts away to straighten them and these were some of the better ones. It all just sort of rushes by when you’re on an auto rickshaw.

Streets of Chennai

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