Novel form of transport makes an impression in Prague


Visitors to Prague can get around the city by various means of transport: metro, tram, bus, taxi - and now - Velotrixi. These colourful, three-wheel pedal-driven vehicles can now be seen around the centre of the city, and have become an instant hit since being introduced in May.

Pavel Bem
The man who introduced these unusual vehicles to the Czech capital is Mayor Pavel Bem. He explains what inspired him to bring them to Prague.

"I saw them for the first time in Berlin. They seemed to be quite an intelligent and refreshing vehicle and means of transportation. So I started to negotiate and discuss with the providers and they said they would be so happy to come to Prague, and I said, so let's try and so they did."

The Velotrixis operate in the centre of the city. The pink and white domed bike is a kind of modern-day, futuristic looking rickshaw. It is eye-catching and impossible to miss. But you won't hear them: they are noiseless and very environmentally friendly. Karolina Idrisova is one of the founders of the company who operate Prague's fleet of Velotrixis. What did she find so appealing about them?

"It's the design of the vehicles, they are very unique. They are playful and cosmopolitan. It's very different sitting in this type of vehicle, running on three wheels; it looks like a rickshaw actually. This vehicle also supports an ecological lifestyle. That was the initial idea behind the launch of these vehicles in Germany. To support and to help the transportation system within the city centres."

This people powered vehicle is classified as a bicycle. It has a small electrical engine that only kicks in to assist the driver when needed and automatically turns off when the bike reaches eleven kilometres an hour. But sometimes the driver and the engine are not enough, so bikes are confined to the flattest parts of central Prague. A Velotrixi driver explains the limits of the bike.

"It's good on a flat surface, but difficult when I go higher up, so for example, I can't go to Prague castle because the motor is not strong enough. It could be better."

This girl is one of only three women among the city's 40 drivers. She spends most of her day outside, driving around in the heat. Given the physically demanding nature of the job, what is the attraction?

"I like it because I am outside in the fresh air. I am doing something for myself, because I like riding bikes. Also, I love talking to foreigners."

The vehicle is, of course, for tourists, but locals have also increasingly been using them. Some people will even use them instead of taxis. With the rise in traffic congestion, they may provide a viable option for quick travel across the central parts of the city. Karolina Idrisova explains the integral part she hopes they will play.

"We are trying to communicate the idea to city hall, because this is a very new concept. We work with the same goals as them, because I know that the city is trying to move traffic away from the centre. This is a process that will take some time; it is not going to happen immediately. So while offering this type alternative, we believe that we can help to a certain extent."

The rickshaws cruise down any road, regardless of whether it is paved or cobblestone. So, if you can handle a bit of a bumpy ride, you can give your tired feet a rest.