Beijing Motorcycle Taxis are Today’s Rickshaws

Beijing Travel Report Motorcycle Taxi Parked

Motorcycle taxi parked with the bicycles

While in Beijing, you will see motorcycle taxis zipping through the bicycle lanes.  This modern day evolution of the historic rickshaws is a quick and economical way for the Chinese to travel around their local Beijing districts.

These people haulers are motorbikes with an enclosed cab mounted on them.  They have 3 wheels, and would be better described as motor-tricycles.  The cab encloses the driver with a little side door to allow entry to the driver’s seat, and it also has a compartment in the back for passengers.  Passengers enter through a rear facing door.

They scoot along in the bike lanes that are typically on the outside of the auto traffic lanes.  Their narrowness allows them to share those lanes with other motorcycles and human powered bicycles.

In this video, you will see one in operation.  You get the feel for the size and speed of this little marvel.  And yes, there is a passenger in the back.

How many passengers can they handle, you might ask?  I have seen one motorcycle taxi with a mother and 2 small children in the back.  I might be able to squeeze my 6’3” overweight frame in the back of one, but it would be a tight squeeze.  That is on my list of things to do during my next trip to Beijing.

These things are great when you only have a few blocks to go.  I would think they are especially desired during a rain storm.  Their ability to outpace cars stuck in traffic on the motorways is a big advantage.

Now, don’t freak out on me.  There are still real bicycle rickshaws for tourists to ride.  That is mainly for tourists, though.  The everyday Chinese person that needs to pop over to the neighbors a few blocks away is going to use the modern motorized version.

UPDATE: 2012-12-2
This is not just a China thing.  Most countries in the developing world have some version of this.  These are also called “tuk tuks” in India and elsewhere in Asia.  You can even get an all electric version built in the United States.

Here is information from Wikipedia on the different variations used around the world for Auto Rickshaws.

Share this and leave a comment.  Would you try a motorcycle taxi, if you had a chance?

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3 thoughts on “Beijing Motorcycle Taxis are Today’s Rickshaws

  1. I want to buy one of these things for use at our weekend house in Marin, CA. It’s kind of tough finding one of these to import. Registration is going to be a bear, too, but my wife really wants one. She doesn’t have an M1 license (I do), but the neat thing is that I think that these fall in line with a slow moving 3 wheeled vehicle rule, so no M1 license required.

    Any clues on where to buy one of these marvels in the US?

  2. Mike,

    I looked around and there only seems to be one place where you can buy an American auto rickshaw. The Tuk Tuk company of India started selling Thai auto rickshaws (also called tuk tuks) in North America in 2006. However, they ceased in 2009. Now, they started selling American made all electric tuk tuks. So, your wife can have something close to what they have in Asia.

    They are not quite the style found in Beijing. So, hopefully, your wife can settle for something close.

    These are all street legal in all 50 states. That includes California! Maybe there is a California energy rebate for it, as it can be registered and driven on the highway?

    Let me know if you buy one, and which model you get.


  3. Hi Kenny —

    Thanks for the pointer. This is a start, but she’s really in love with the esthetics of the TukTuk shown in the picture at the top. She likes that stainless steel sided looking vehicle. I think I need to hold out.

    Plus, our house is at the top of a pretty serious grade and I’m not sure that an electric vehicle would make it. Maybe.

    Perhaps there will be a new model with the SS sides.

    Thanks again!

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