Vroom with a view

Velotaxis make sight­see­ing an eco-friendly and en­joy­able ride on three wheels.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - SARAH MORI

AU­TUMN will be over when Novem­ber ends. It has been a damp, gloomy sea­son and the rainy weather had of­ten put a damper on our week­end out­ings.

Last au­tumn, we wit­nessed some in­ter­est­ing things when we went to Ya­mashita Park in Naka-ku, Yoko­hama. In the sunny weather, many Ja­panese and for­eign tourists en­joyed rides in velotaxis while view­ing the au­tumn fo­liage and scenery. The golden hue of the gingko trees lin­ing both sides of the road was spec­tac­u­lar.

The name “velotaxi” de­rives from the Latin word “velo” for bi­cy­cle. A velotaxi is a pol­lu­tion-free three­wheeler which orig­i­nated in 1997 in Ber­lin, Ger­many. Its ped­i­cab model has now be­come widely used in many other coun­tries.

Ky­oto first adopted the velotaxi ser­vice in May 2002. It is man­aged by a non-profit en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion. Due to its pop­u­lar­ity as an en­vi­ron­ment-friendly means of trans­port­ing sight­seers around in Ky­oto, the ser­vice has ex­panded to many ma­jor cities and towns through­out Ja­pan. Nev­er­the­less, the fares vary in each re­gion.

The colour­ful ad­ver­tise­ments dis­played on the bod­ies of the velotaxis are spon­sored by com­pa­nies to pro­mote their prod­ucts as well as their cor­po­rate im­age as sup­port­ers of the ecofriendly con­cept, mak­ing velotaxis a mo­bile ad­ver­tis­ing medium.

Velotaxis started run­ning in Yoko­hama in March 2007. A velotaxi can seat two adults, with two ele­men­tary school­child­ren sit­ting on the adults’ laps. The ba­sic fare starts at ¥300 (RM11) per adult and ¥150 (RM5.60) per ele­men­tary school­child or dis­abled per­son. The fare for a preschooler or pet is ¥100 (RM3.75). Chil­dren be­low two years old travel for free. Ele­men­tary school­child­ren tak­ing a velotaxi must be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult.

The fare is de­ter­mined by a point sys­tem. Pas­sen­gers are charged ¥100 for each point of des­ti­na­tion. A ride from Red­brick Ware­house to Chi­na­town for two adults and an

(from left) A jin­rik­isha; a tri­cy­cle used for gro­cery shop­ping; and a woman’s own ver­sion of the velotaxi. ele­men­tary schoolkid costs ¥1,500 (RM56). The driv­ers also of­fer a 30-minute ride at ¥2,500 (RM94), or ¥4,000 (RM150) per hour.

On fine days, male and fe­male driv­ers ply their ser­vices from 11am to 7pm, car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers at a leisurely speed of about 8kph. The trained driv­ers are young and en­er­getic. Be­ing peo­ple-friendly, they in­ter­act with their pas­sen­gers as they ma­noeu­vre their nim­ble ve­hi­cles for a short tour.

While walk­ing on the side­walk at Ya­mashita Park, some­thing amus­ing held our gaze and made us chuckle. A mother was rid­ing on a bi­cy­cle with two chil­dren sit­ting in what looked like a mini velotaxi cabin at­tached to the back of her bi­cy­cle. Never be­fore had we seen such an un­usual mode of trans­port. It was cute and an in­ge­nious way to take her chil­dren around freely! But I di­gress. I thought tri­cy­cles are usu­ally rid­den by small chil­dren. How­ever, sev­eral shop­pers in Ja­pan use them for gro­cery shop­ping, es­pe­cially in shop­ping ar­cades. The tri­cy­cle is equipped with a bas­ket in front of the han­dle bars and an­other big­ger bas­ket be­hind the seat for the gro­ceries. All one needs is pedal power. Con­ve­nient, isn’t it? No aching hands from car­ry­ing the heavy goods and good ex­er­cise for the legs.

A few weeks ago, we went to Ya­mashita Park again. It was Nov 3, a na­tional hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing Cul­ture Day. The roads were con­gested.

“Why are there so many po­lice­men to­day?” my son asked, won­der­ing if there had been an ac­ci­dent some­where.

“Se­cu­rity mea­sures for the APEC sum­mit here on Nov 13 and 14,” Koji an­swered.

“Al­ready? But that’s 10 days away!” I re­marked, look­ing at sev­eral cars be­ing flagged down for ran­dom checks.

“All the park­ing lots are full. I saw some driv­ers get­ting traf­fic fines. Papa, we bet­ter go home,” Ken sug­gested.

When the APEC sum­mit was held in Pa­cific Yoko­hama con­ven­tion cen­tre in Mi­nato Mi­rai area, more than 10,000 po­lice­men were dis­patched to beef up the se­cu­rity and reg­u­late the traf­fic there. Ve­hi­cles and pedes­tri­ans were barred from the area around the sum­mit’s venue. Thus velotaxi driv­ers took a break from Nov 8 to 14.

Velotaxis re­mind me of the tr­ishaws in Malaysia. With their sporty and stylish struc­tures, they are what I called “mod­ern tr­ishaws”.

One might think that it must be aw­fully hard for the driver to pedal the velotaxi. Un­like Malaysian tr­ishaws, velotaxis are er­gonom­i­cally de­signed with an elec­tricpow­ered mo­tor which aids the driver to ferry heavy pas­sen­gers or pedal up slopes.

As for me, I would pre­fer velotaxis to jin­rik­ishas. Jin­rik­ishas ex­ist in cer­tain sight­see­ing and his­tor­i­cal sites of Ja­pan. Whether the puller is a young man or woman, draw­ing a jin­rik­isha def­i­nitely needs more mus­cle work. n Sarah Mori, a Malaysian mar­ried to a Ja­panese, has been liv­ing in Ja­pan since 1992.

Three times the fun: Lo­cals and tourists go­ing for rides in velotaxis at Ya­mashita Park, Yoko­hama.

Round and round and round we go:

In­vig­o­rat­ing: Sight-see­ing in a velotaxi.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.