The Independent, 1999
The Pedicab arrived on the roads of Islington this July. It is set fair to becoming an icon of local identity to match the horse-drawn caleches of Marrakech, the gondolas of Venice or the bycycle rickshaws of Peshawar. The locals have taken to it with a passion if the queue outside the pavement of Sainsbury’s is to remain typical. Amongst a jostle of plastic shopping bags a stout barrister, an Amnesty International translator (with two kids attached), a flirtatious male couple, an estate agent (with mobile phone attached) and three kids from the Marquis Estate plotted their routes on the colour coded map of the borough. There were as an excited bubble of chatter as we added up our small change for the £2 or £3.50 fare and kept a look out for a returning Pedicab with its bright orange plastic hull.
There is a deep tray at the back for shopping, a wide seat that can take two fat adults or three kids, a canopy in case of rain, frog-eye like headlights and a fit young man dressed in black driving the geared rickshaw in the front driving seat. I yearned for some silk banners, painted gargoyles and bells but once on the road my distate for washable pressed plastic dissapeared in the elation of the journey. You feel like a Princess at Ascot and the temptation to wave is irresistible. The wind plucks tears from your eyes as does the small glimmer of hope that the Pedicab could lead the way in reclaiming the streets of our city for life.
The Pedicab, which had already proved itself near miraculous by transforming a routine, near purgatorial trip to the supermarket, into a fair-ground ride, also begin to glow in my eyes with the bright light of an Environmental warrior. Designed by Bob Dickson and built in Manchester the Pedicab felt sturdy and secure but with its elegant gearing mechanisms and thin suspension rods it also felt like a delicate flower. Will it ever blossom beyond the confines of compact and elegant Islington ? Indeed can it even survive here or will it once the novely wears off be threatened by the assaults of callous drivers like the horse drawn drays of Youngs Brewery. There have been sales to Europe but the experiment in London is entirely dependent on the patronage of the Sainsbury’s supermarket at Islington. They have paid for the small experimental fleet of Pedicabs which are run and maintained by Jonathan Edwards, a passionate enviromentalist, who is also responsible for recruiting additional drivers. The machinery is here but will we have the will to use it.
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by Barnaby Rogerson