Evolution of Rickshaw

  • 1867

    In New Jersey, USA, the Burlington County Historical Society claims an 1867 invention by carriage maker James Birch, and exhibits a Birch rickshaw in its museum.

    Source :Corson Poley Center,  http://www.burlingtoncountyhistoricalsociety.org/museum.php

  • 1868

    Rickshaw in a museum in Japan : The cart pulled to this man is in the museum of Toyota in Aichi Prefecture in Japan. It is thought that the Museum's rickshaw was manufactured in Japan in about 1880 although some replacement parts were probably added at a later date.

    Rickshaw in Japan

    Japanese sources often credit Izumi Yosuke, Suzuki Tokujiro, and Takayama Kosuke, who are said to have invented rickshaws in 1868, inspired by the horse carriages that had been introduced to the streets of Tokyo shortly before. Starting in 1870, the Tokyo government issued a permission to build and sell rickshaws to these three men. The seal of one of these inventors was also required on every license to operate a rickshaw.
    By 1872, some 40,000 rickshaws were operating in Tokyo. They soon became the chief form of public transportation in Japan. (Powerhouse Museum, 2005; The Jinrikisha story, 1996)

  • 1869

    Rickshaws were first seen in Japan around 1868, at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. They soon became a popular mode of transportation since they were faster than the previously used palanquins (and human labor was considerably cheaper than the use of horses).
    The identity of the inventor remains uncertain. Some American sources give the American blacksmith Albert Tolman, who is said to have invented the rickshaw around 1848 in Worcester, Massachusetts, for a missionary. Others claim that Jonathan Scobie (or Jonathan Goble), an American missionary to Japan, invented the rickshaw around 1869 to transport his invalid wife through the streets of Yokohama. Other scholars think it was Izumi Yosuke, a restaurateur in Tokyo in 1869. In New Jersey, the Burlington County Historical Society claims an 1867 invention by carriage maker James Birch, and exhibits a Birch rickshaw in its museum. None of these dates, however, are as early as the French sources.

  • 1874

    Shanghai, China
    "A new form of conveyance came into Shanghai in 1874, which proved in some ways to be a nuisance and in others, a great convenience. This was the Jinricsha - "the man power carriage." It was imported from Japan. At first the ricshas were not very popular, but they soon proved their usefulness and became more and more numerous." - F.L. Hawks Potts

    Source : http://www.earnshaw.com/shanghai-ed-india/tales/t-rick.htm

  • 1880

    Rickshaw at The Mall at Simla, with the General Post Office in the background. Courtesy of the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections

    Rickshaw in India
    Around 1880, rickshaws appeared in India, first in Simla and then, 20 years later, in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Officers and their Wives used to sit on hand pulled rickshaw as their personal means of Transportation

    Source : http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft396nb1sf&chunk.id=d0e3149&toc.id=&brand=ucpress

  • 1890

    Sri Lanka : A rickshaw driver & his passenger at Kandy, Ceylon 1880-1890

    Source : http://lankapura.com/2009/04/driver-passenger-rickshaw-kandy/

  • 1897

    The word rickshaw originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車, 人 jin = human, 力 riki = power or force, 車 sha = vehicle), which literally means "human-powered vehicle". In 1874, The word jinricksha/jinrikisha" was published in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1887. The word rickshaw/ricksha was included in the Oxford English Dictionary as a relation of jinricksha/jinrikisha. The word ricksha was used as a manual laborer's slang word in Japan. However, the Japanese rickshaw declined due to the development of the auto industry in the 1930's.
    Source: p.244 of ''The Gist of Japan - The Islands, Their People, And Missions'', Rev. R. B. Peery, A.M., Ph.D. © 1897 Fleming H. Revell Company Scanned and originally uploaded in wikipedia

  • 1900

    Cycle Rickshaws in Madagascar

    Cycle Rickshaw here is known as pousse-pousse, are a common form of transport in a number of Malagasy cities, especially Antsirabe and Toamasina. They are often brightly decorated.

    Rickshaw in Africa (1900)

    South Africa
    Durban is famous for its iconic Zulu rickshaw pullers navigating throughout the city. These colourful characters are famous for their giant, vibrant hats and costumes. Although they had been a mode of transportation since the early 1900s, they were displaced by motorised transport, and the approximately 25 rickshaws left mostly cater to tourists today.

  • 1902

    Fleet of HandPuller Rickshaw Parked at The Ridge, Shimla

    Picture from : Gaiety Theater Exhibition, 2012

  • 1914

    A rickshaw in College Street (Kolkata)

    Rickshaw in India

    Around 1880, rickshaws appeared in India, first in Simla and then, 20 years later, in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Here they were initially used by Chinese traders to transport goods. In 1914, the Chinese applied for permission to use rickshaws to transport passengers. Soon after, rickshaws appeared in many big cities in Southeast Asia . Pulling a rickshaw was often the first job for peasants migrating to these cities

  • 1914

    History of Rickshaw in Singapore

    Trishaws were first introduced in Singapore in 1914 as "pedal rickshaws" or pedicabs, when bicycles were innovatively added to the passenger seat of rickshaws. In 1914, at least 15 trishaws were first registered in Singapore with fares similar to first-class rickshaws although they were advertised as early as 1886, then promoted as Upton Park tricycle. The trishaws proved a bulkier and less manoeuvrable vehicle compared to their more primitive brother, the rickshaw. This initial batch of trishaws in 1914 were quickly taken to be sold off in Java and were soon forgotten. It was only in the late 1920s that trishaws returned to the island and its use increased with more Chinese immigrants coming to Singapore and finding that trishaw riding proved a viable occupation. As it was easier to drive and offered twice the speed of rickshaws, trishaws soon grew in popularity not only in Singapore but also in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and throughout Asia. World War II and the consequent lack of petrol fueled the use of trishaws and thus the Japanese have often been credited with its invention. Just as the rickshaw evolved into the trishaw, the trishaw was easily motorised, becoming the jeepney or tuk-tuk in various Asian countries. In Singapore however, the motorized trishaw never took root and the trishaw remains pedal-powered to this day.

    Source : Uncle Trishaw :http://trishawuncle.com.sg/html/about_us/about_us_04.html

  • 1918

    Zulu Rickshaw in Durban

    The advent of the motor car created fierce competition for rickshas. By 1918, horse drawn rickshas had also become popular. The pullers were under the constant threat of various by-laws. Strikes occurred, as well as public petitions in support of the services, which ricksha pullers rendered.

    Source :http://www.ezakwantu.com/Gallery%20Zulu%20Ricksha.htm

  • 1928

    Beijing, China

    The sturdy, broad-backed figure of a policeman parts the flow of traffic heading to and from Qian Gate. The gate is framed by a ceremonial arch from which an electric lamp is suspended. The arch marked the entrance to commercial district outside Qiant Gate. From Heinz v Perckhammer, Peeking (Berlin: Albertus-Verlang, 1928)

    Source: Rickshaw Beijing, City People and the Politics in 1920, Page 75, David Strand

  • 1930

    Rickshaw in Shimla, India, as Private Vehicle being used by British

    Source : http://www.pricewebhome.co.uk/Docs/Price/Colonial/JPG/index.htm

  • 1932

    Officers Sits on Hand Pulled Rickshaw in Mumbai

  • 1935

    Rickshaw in Australia
    The Malayan Scouts were overjoyed when Sir Isaac Isaacs allowed one of them to take him for a ride in their rickshaw.

    Source :  http://www.yican.com.au/1935/imp.htm

  • 1936

    A Chinese man posing next to his rickshaw, Medan, 1936. 

    Most manual rickshaws were eliminated in China after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, because they were considered a symbol of oppression of the working class.

  • 1937

    Hong Kong

    Commuters on the ferry pier of Tsimshatsui, 1937. The “Hongkong Ferry” was so named to inform passenger that it was the boarding point for ferries of the “Star” Ferry Co. Ltd to leave kowloon for Hong Kong Island. The huge canopy, on the left, is a shady shelter for rickshaw pullers to wait for and pick up ferry passengers. Courtesy of Public Records Office, Government Records Service, Hong Kong

  • 1938

    A tourist "Ricsha" ride in Chinatown, Los Angeles, 1938

    Rickshaw in United States of America

    In Los Angeles, California, a rickshaw rental company operated and rented original vintage and antique hand pulled rickshaws. The company was the only one in the United States providing original antique hand pulled rickshaws.
    Rickshaws are still present on the boardwalks of Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey, and in some parts of New York City. Rickshaws are also available in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, on State Street where normal automobile traffic is not allowed. Rickshaws are present in Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern Kentucky (Newport, Covington and Bellevue). Pedicabs are available in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • 1939

    A Chinese rickshaw puller hauls a European Jewish refugee in World War II-era Shanghai.

    Source : http://www.offoffoff.com/film/1999/port.php

    Rickshaw in China

    Manual rickshaws were first used in China during the late 19th century. Rickshaw transport was an important element in urban development in 20th century China, both in terms of its provision of transport to the consumers of the service and for the employment it provided (and migration it facilitated) for workers. Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920 by David Strand quantifies the effect: "Sixty thousand men took as many as a half million fares a day in a city of slightly more than one million. Sociologist Li Jinghan estimated that one out of six males in the city between the ages of sixteen and fifty was a puller. Rickshaw men and their dependents made up almost 20 percent of Beijing's population." (p. 21). Most manual rickshaws were eliminated in China after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, because they were considered a symbol of oppression of the working class.

  • 1945

    Mahatma Gandhi On The Way To Viceregal Lodge, Simla, July 1945

    Source : http://www.mkgandhi.org/biography/smlaconf.htm

  • 1945

    In Simla for the 1945 for Shimla Convention - Abdul Ghafar Khan, Nehru, and Sardar Patel (in the rickshaw)

    Source : http://ridingtheelephant.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/nehru-was-lost-for-years-in-a-trunk-%E2%80%A6%E2%80%A6%E2%80%A6/

  • 1945

    A Rickshaw in Singapore 1945. World War II had just finished and the Japanese occupation was just over but still life had to go on and a living earned.

    Source : http://www.myfareast.org/Singapore/singaporeview-6.html

  • 1946

    Women in a rickshaw passing evacuees streaming across the Howrah Bridge on their way to the railway station in hopes of escaping the city after bloody rioting - Calcutta (Kolkata) August 1946

    Source : http://www.oldindianphotos.in/2011/01/life-during-calcutta-kolkata-communal.html

  • 1946

    Sisters Joan Goodband and Pat Hughes of 81 Mobile Field Hospital take a trishaw ride during their off-duty hours. 81 Mobile Field Hospital at Seletar was the first Royal Air Force hospital established after the Japanese surrender at Singapore

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CF_001020.jpg

  • 1962

    Pedicab in New York City

    In American cities such as New York, human powered transport is available as an environmentally friendly means of transit. Local residents in New York City, however, view pedicabs primarily as tourist vehicles due to their high fares and their drivers' aggressive sales pitches to pedestrians. At a rate of $5 plus $1 per block per person, a 20-block (one mile) pedicab ride for two people will cost $50.In a taxicab, the same ride would cost under $10. 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.
    Source : http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/taxicab_rate.shtml

  • 1968

    Becak in front of the British embassy in Jakarta, 1968

    Rickshaw in Indonesia

    Cycle rickshaws in Indonesia are called becak. Becak were considered an icon of the capital city of Jakarta prior to its ban in the 1970s. Citing concerns of public order, the city government forbade them on the city's main streets. However, many becak still operate near slums throughout the city. Attempts at reinforcing the ban resulted in large-scale seizures of the vehicle in the late 1990s and in 2007.

  • 1970

    Beca from Parit Jawa, Muar, Johor, at the Muzium Negara, Malaysia

    This trishaw (Beca) originated from Parit Jawa, Muar, Johor. It is painted green, red, black and yellow, colours popular to that era. The seat, which comes complete with a backrest, is padded with coconut husk. It can carry two adult passengers plus one or two children. The hood is made of canvas, which can easily be opened or closed when necessary.

    Rickshaw in Malaysia

    In Malaysia, pedestrian-pulled rickshaws were gradually replaced by cycle rickshaws (beca in Malay). Cycle rickshaws were ubiquitous up to the 1970s in cities. Since then, rapid urbanization has increased demand for more efficient public transport, resulting in dwindling cycle rickshaw numbers. Today, cycle rickshaws are operated mostly as a tourist attraction, with small numbers operating in Malacca, Penang, Kelantan and Terengganu.

  • 1972

    In the year 1972 in United States of America, "T.I.P.K.E. Pedicabs" started manufacturing World's premier pedicab. Their Pedicabs are renowned for the quality, durability, and comfort. They got world wide customer base testifies to our Pedicab popularity.  Pedicabs provide a pleasant, safe, noiseless, and pollution free form of transportation.  Pedicabs are designed for leisurely, relatively short distance trips.  Pedicabs are offering a unique, exciting and profitable opportunity in the Pedicab Taxi Industry.

    Source : T.I.P.K.E. Pedicabs  NW Inc., https://www.premierpedicabs.com/

  • 1975

    Chandigarh Rickshaw, traditional wooden body popularly known as meeruth body rickshaw. Same model is very popular across the Northern India.

    Picture by : Ashish Chandra, 2012

  • 1980

    Zulu Rickshaw in Durban, South Africa

    According to public records, by 1968 there were only 260 rickshaw's left in operation. In 1970 there were 186 registered and in 1971, a mere 90. At that moment, the very last of the Mpondo pullers working around the market area were seen. By 1975 there were only 29 rickshas left working the beachfront. By 1980 - 10 remained, all in poor condition.

    Source : http://www.ezakwantu.com/Gallery%20Zulu%20Ricksha.htm

  • 1997

    Modern Rickshaw : A Velotaxi cycle rickshaw in Hamburg, Germany

    Rickshaw in Germany

    In 1997 a new pedicab design was created in Berlin, Germany, by Ludger Matuszewski, the founder of "Velotaxi GmbH" company. The cab was designed by Ludger Matuszewski, a former Daimler-Chrysler project manager from Berlin. Velotaxis are often used for group functions like weddings. Under German traffic laws, transporting people on bicycles was forbidden. Berlin's Senate, police, and taxi associations finally agreed that the "cult-flitzer" could be integrated into the city's traffic flow. Germany's highest court later ruled that transporting people on bikes was legal. It is a modern and newly designed pedicab (CityCruiser) with a 500-watt electric assist motor. Although these electric-assist pedicabs were engineered in Germany they are manufactured in the Czech Republic and some clones are now also produced in China. The Chinese clone can be purchased for about three thousand US dollars; the German original is around six thousand US dollars (new version 9000+ €). The batteries last about 4 hours with a full charge. As with a few recumbent and semi-recumbent designs, some drivers may suffer with knee and joint pain due to the weight of the vehicle (145 kg)

  • 1998

    Bugbugs is a social enterprise business, set up in 1998 to help empower young people, teach them how to operate a small business and also created the first zero emission transportation and advertising company in London, then called ‘Quad Power LTD. Through the implementation of ‘best practice codes’, Bugbugs have always aimed high with our equipment, training and business model.
     Bugbugs fleet of rickshaws uses state-of-the-art technology. Bugbugs have modernized and updated the traditional rickshaw design, exceeding the stringent standards specified by Transport for London in 2006. All Bugbugs are equipped with passenger safety belts, full lighting systems, hydraulic braking system, 24 speed gears, parking brake. Each Bugbugs has space for 3 adults and a rider, our 2012 model has a rear impact absorber (crumple zone) and is build from a mixture of composite plastics, cold drawn steel and aluminum, total unloaded weight 95kg. The lighting system is hardwired, full L.E.D. with indicators and brake lights but also fitted with GPS tracking system, which alerts the controller in case of an accident. Plenty of storage space for riders’ property and all weather clothing, along with a quick flip roof which keeps passengers dry but still allows viewing of local landmarks.

    Source : Friedel Schroder, for and on behalf of Bugbugs Media Ltd, 63 Shoe Lane, London EC4A 3BE, 

  • 2001


    ITDP Rickshaw Improvement Project at Agra, India. Press Conferences and Events with Mayors and Other Government Leaders Boosted Sales and Investor Confidence in new Improved Lightweight, Low floor, ergonomically designed Cycle Rickshaw.

    Source : http://www.itdp.org/documents/Seminar/Walter%20Hook.pdf and http://cleanairinitiative.org/portal/node/510

  • 2002

    Raja Ki Baghi : Improved Cycle Rickshaw in front of Taj Mahal, Agra by Nutan Sehgal

    Unlike bicycle technology, which advanced dramatically in the last decade through the introduction of ultra-lightweight materials, cycle rickshaws have not changed since the 1940s, when ordinary bicycles were welded and bolted to heavy steel and wood chassis-seat configurations.

    Pullers of rickshaws toiled in the hot sun for hours to eke out a meagre living and were exposed to intense pollution and dangerous traffic. As a result the mortality rate among pullers has been alarmingly high.


    Source : http://www.the-south-asian.com/june2002/Cycle_Rickshaw_2.htm

  • 2008

    Ecocab Revolution - India

    On 20th June 2008, cycle rickshaw was introduced as "Ecocabs" in Fazilka (India) with Dial-a-Rickshaw Facility. With the help of  Keerti Dixit, a Student of School and Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, new Fazilka Ecocabs model "Nano" was Developed.

  • 2010

    Ecocabs in Amritsar by Punjab Tourism in association with Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka (GWAF)

    Picture by Gurpreet Singh, 2010

  • 2011

    With the Suo Moto action on one of the News item related to Fazilka Ecocabs published in English Daily "Indian Express" by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a precedence was set in two states Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh about the rickshaw revolution. In the month of May 2011, Chief Secretary Punjab Mr S.C. Aggarwal visited Fazilka and Inaugurated "Femto" a new series of cycle Rickshaw model with suspension under Project Fazilka Ecocabs. Till February 2012, concept ecocab successfully implemented in 22 cities of Punjab (India).

  • 2012

    Ecocabs, India

    A Small Town metro on rubber tyre

    Starting from Small Town Fazilka, Ecocabs become landmark in the Country. More than 1000 are being operational in Punjab and Haryana State of India and further under the process of Implementation.

    Source : Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka

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