An exciting clean and green adventure in Melbourne is underway, with plans to bring the rickshaw to Sydney if successful!
A possible solution to CBD congestion in the shape of a new, green business could soon be landing in our major cities. But the big question is – will it work?
Ambitious entrepreneur and bike lover Tim Collins plans to launch a fleet of ultra-modern rickshaws to cart passengers on short trips around Melbourne and potentially Sydney. Staffed by a team of super-fit cyclists, Bike Cabs aims to ease traffic gridlock by offering tourists and city workers a cheap, carbon-neutral alternative.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here – bikes have been around forever,” Collins says. “Bike Cabs are for everyone, it’s a great equaliser. Plus it could be a good way to solve the congestion problem, which is getting worse and worse.”
The idea has attracted its fair share of praise and criticism. At a top speed of 25km an hour there are claims the rickshaws will block bike lanes, while others say it’s a novelty tourism drawcard and a much-needed alternative to expensive taxi fares. Bike Cabs will charge passengers a $5 flagfall and $2.50 per kilometre.
INNOVIC director of commercialisation Richard Milne says sustainable innovations like Bike Cabs are a good look for any major city. INNOVIC is a not-for-profit entrepreneur support network.
“I believe economic benefits will come from the local public seeing Bike Cabs setting an example of environmental awareness and following suit, visitors to Melbourne also recognising and admiring the enterprise as one of healthy living and attitude,” he says. “Any green transport is good transport, and I commend the innovative initiative of the entrepreneurs behind the concept.”
Community bike organisation Bicycle Network’s general manager government and external relations Chris Carpenter says while bike cabs would be a welcome addition to Melbourne, they would be too large for existing cycle lanes.
“Bicycle Network supports all modes of active travel, along with initiatives that promote tourism in Melbourne,” he says. “Although the width of bike lanes across the Melbourne CBD would not adequately accommodate for the use of rickshaws within them. Our focus is for City of Melbourne to continue upgrading existing infrastructure to better support the needs of existing and future bike riders.”
Collins says the width of a bike cab is one metre, about the width of two cyclists riding side-by-side. “In trials we’ve done, bike riders can get around us easily,” he says. “Bike cabs are smaller than people realise.”
Collins, an industrial designer and former bike courier, says he is accustomed to criticism surrounding Bike Cabs and it only serves to motivate him.
“You’re always going to get people saying you can’t do this and it’s not going to work,” he says. “But I enjoy proving them wrong. I’m not going to say it’s definitely going to work, but we’re going to give it a good crack.”
The future of Bike Cabs’ proposal hinges on the Melbourne City Council, which will decide whether to grant the business a permit to trade later this month.
A rival rickshaw business, Green Monkey, has also lodged a permit application with the council.
If Bike Cabs’ push for a permit fails, Collins and his team plan to hire out their fleet of three-wheelers to private events such as festivals. But if Bike Cabs gets the green light there are plans to take the business to Sydney and even franchise it to other capital cities.
The business is also depending on a leg-up through crowdfunding site Pozible, where it is aiming to raise $25,000 in seed funding. So far, it has raised more than $11,000.
Collins and his team have already spent $10,000 of their own funds on research and development, including $6000 for the first bike cab.
The bike cabs are designed and built in Australia by Collins and co-founder Stephen Mushin, a designer and artist who specialises in sustainability.
If needed, Bike Cabs pedallers can rely on an electric motor to help haul them and their passengers up steep inclines.
Collins says potential riders will need a good level of fitness and local orientation to fit the bill.
“Our riders will need a base level of health to do it and we want people who know Melbourne and won’t be stopping to look up stuff,” he says.
To top off the super green mode of transport, Collins has plans for the rickshaws to be fitted with solar panels to charge up the lithium batteries powering the bike cab motors.