Tough love in the rickshaw base

Another few weeks have passed and we’ll soon hit December 2013, a season for giving rides, enjoying the merry spirit of people heading to parties and catching a bike taxi to the train.

It’s also the part of the year we start handing out a bit of ‘tough love’. In the rickshaw community you have a whole range of different types but a very small group tend to think that the summer was for getting stoned, then sadly, as the winter comes life becomes tough and this creates problems of need.

The riders that fall into this crack are far and few between but sadly impact on others more then their numbers suggest.
From only earning enough to get stoned or drunk or high, this group struggle with rental payments for rickshaw, home and life, usually sleeping rough in the rickshaw of another and taking things that are not their own, so the impact of desperation ripples to those around, those that put effort into the summer to enjoy the winter time off.

So how do we give this tough love and why? Well, we know if we ask them to leave our base at this point of the year, they manage to wake up and start the mad rush to sort out a place to live, some cash to eat and a bike to work or to move on to other places in the world were support or money lasts longer. If we leave it longer then the start of December, then they will already be in the hard time, with no way to make the resources to change.

Each year this group has a few members who are ill prepared to struggle through the quite time of January and February because they have no reserves.


A well lived life

Today I enjoyed the responses in an empowerment blog and the question he asked was what his readers felt was success. What I’m learning is that we are blessed with a huge world, an even bigger solar system, an even bigger galaxy and a universe which is so big that it’s near impossible to even fit it’s size into our minds. Each day we each have the same huge universe within us, from the fabric of stars in our bones, to atoms formed, to the amazing things that happen, in our cells, in our bodies and our minds, to the things around us, to the world around us.

So in all that space, all success is a life well lived and we each can choose what a ‘well’ lived life should be.
Be it creating, growing, meditating or striving, learning, rearing, educating, living, loving, dancing or cycling. Our path is the story 😉


Halloween night

So last Monday was the one celebration our rickshaw base does – Halloween. I know it’s Monday in November but it’s the best time, very few riders work on a Monday night and it’s perfect after having worked the Friday and Saturday shift, to then let your hair down and party.

The preparations this year included, building a small mixer box, which will allow different people to plug in as DJs and finally stop the huge feedback explosion we usually get when swapping input devises. LED flashing lights and pattern makers.

Then the flattening of the dance floor and filling in a few holes, with the stringing up of lights and projector sheet on the cement getting dry. This was followed by our two huge speakers and a video projector to add to the ambiance and fun. To top up the kink, we added 300 newspapers to the floor, to dance & shred the night away.

Our theme was Africa, so a little vodoo was feature in the costumes and the tiny Tilda show cased her recycled rickshaw rubber cloths.

Master boss man himself pushing the beat and watching over the souls of the travels of life. So the night was set to role and spirits of the night had there own night out.

The part started like the waves on a lake and slowly built to an explosive finish.





A good funeral

In 2007 I started to work in the offices of a not for profit social enterprise company called Bugbugs, who operate a small fleet of rickshaws in London.

The company was setup to offer zero emission transport and advertising and all of our riders were young guys and girls, who rented the rickshaw and then went out to make their own money with tips from giving rides on the rickshaw. I myself worked in this way, for what turned into 6 years plus, even though it was only supposed to be for the summer. The job is a huge amount of fun, thanks to the passengers, the other riders and the type of group spirit it gives you, most riders feel this way.

We had shifts to cover the office and this entailed signing riders up or off, so it was not much of a surprise that a young rider aged around 23 came in and said that he was coming to give back the locker key and kit.
As Bugbugs always aimed to understand why we were about to lose a rider, I asked him why he was leaving. His answer was an utter shock, as he replied that he was dying from lung disease. At first I thought he was making a very bad joke but his face and colour told a different story, said to him that he should not give up hope, as death is not always that certain. He smiled and then actually donated his £100 security money to the company, even when I protested. The whole thing stayed in my memory for months and that we all will one day pass and what will be left behind.

Around one year later, was now running the company and operating from a new base in our underground cave next to St Andrew. I had a call from a soft spoken gentleman, asking if we offered a service to transport at funerals, to which I replied, that we could. The gentleman made an appointment to come by our office, later that day and to look over our rickshaws.

On arriving it was obvious that it was a rather solemn request he was trying to fulfil, as he started to try and measure the length and hight of the rickshaw. It was, as if he was trying to fit a rather long board down the middle. I explained that this would not work and started looking around for an old rickshaw which was now a cargo platform and which we converted to move to our new base. It seamed perfect in length and hight, so we arranged details of location and timing for the day.

As the morning came, I had not managed to get any of our young riders to take the cargo rickshaw to location, as most had worked through the night giving lifts and so I opted to do it myself.

The 8 miles of ridding, were caped by a rather steep hill which goes by the name of Muswell Hill and rightfully deserves that name, the weather was grey and wet. It took me the best part of 30 minutes to slowly inch my way up the road and my determination to be on time was the only thing stronger then the stitch in my side.

Arrived on time at the location and was greeted by the solemn gentleman and what I took to be the son of the deceits. We proceeded to load a wicker coffin onto the platform and as the mourners gathered slowly proceeded through the park which would take us to the crematorium. The weather did only briefly try to bring the sun but this was not to be.

On arriving, many flowers were added to the coffin, the mix of wicker and simple blue corn flower was uplifting and simple. Personally like the simple things in life and the mix of slight rain, the smell of wicker, the vibrant blue colour of the small flowers create a fair-well from the heart. The four men lined up and lifted the wicker, then slowly walked it to the podium.

The funeral commenced and I staid to pay my respects. As the service finished, meet the young man again and he thanked me for coming and for full filling his brothers last wish, of going by rickshaw. Instantly had a lump in my throat, as the memory of his brother came back to me.

He explained that he had ridden the rickshaw first and then later his brother did so too. Both had the best few months working together and that this was the last happy memory he could share with his brother. I’m deeply moved that we did this for him, as he was one of us. I’m happy it was myself who was part of his fair-well, as it closed a sad memory and it underlines the need to allow us to share a last time. I also know that one day I to will pass and that this is the way I’d like to say goodbye. I’m happy that this place exists to tell this story and hope that you understand why I feel this was a good funeral. Since that time we’ve had the honour of being part of two funerals per year, people who felt that the last journey by bike summons up a philosophy of their life.


Bugbugs Internet battle

I’m spending a Saturday looking through web site ranking, as we noticed, that even though we have been around the longest and spend the most on our company operations, our social enterprise kudos aren’t transplanting into our rankings.

So finally a day to see if our web updates have had any real actions on our rankings, I was pleased to note that the new content took us from 19mil to 6mil ( we are aiming to be a little ahead of our genuine competitors, who currently rank 3mil) but got quite a shock when reading through the pages of our ‘other’ competitors and it was like finding man with a race car at the cycle race.

The ‘less’ likeable company ranks in the 500k and on doing a little research have found that they have used ‘underhanded systems’ (just like in real life, with illegal motors & loud sound systems) by using web booster services that spam you to the top of the rankings.

So I’ll continue our slow crawl through the ranking fight but it’s a bit of a red flag for any one trying to move up by playing the game straight. My beliefs is that we will out live these competitors like so many of the previous slash and burn boys, just got to keep my eyes on the long term goal. So to any others out there in the good guy role, keep the faith, as I think it’s the better stratagem to win, build strong and build real.


When a project makes a difference

The last few weeks have been spent getting ready a Rickshaw for the Children in Need. This years challenge is for them to travel an even greater distance then they did last year and this new team will earn the respect of every one watching.

I’ve been luck to meet a general giant, who goes by the name of Martin. Martin has a great sense of humour and a great spirit. It’s been fantastic helping him get ready for this challenge and enabling him to be able to take part.

Our part is quite small but will hopefully mean that others will be inspired to over come life’s challenges and to be the best one can be.

Please look carefully and make sure you watch the event when it starts and then donate as much as you can 😉


Electric pedicabs or not

Electric rickshaw or not
Ok, as a discussion point, let’s look at electric assisted and twist and go. Good or bad?
Experiance from what happened the last time pedicabs went electric in London.
1. The price of rental dropped to by 30%
2. Cost per customer dropped, as customers could not see why to pay extra if you are not killing yourself.
3. Riders had to do more runs per night to make the same money.
4. An ‘arms race’ of who had the most batteries and biggest motor.
5. Increased cost of operating a pedicab, through burned controllers, battery packs and broken forks
6. Rider retention dropped to weeks rather then months, as it allowed anyone to ride but not every one suits getting on a trike and working.
7. Electrical fires increased in the bases operating electric assist
8. More electric and mechanical failure per trike

Good Points
1. Any one can ride
2. Trips are faster
3. You can make more lifts per night
4. Hills aren’t a hassel
5. Quicker starts
6. You can put electric on all ‘older style’ & they work as well as a ‘new’ trike
7. Rental drops and rides are cheaper per person
8. It’s the most efficent electric Vehical – we tested one and got 60 miles from a good grade of assisted motor, on a velocab

Which side you would be on?

We at felt that it adds one more complication and that the whole thing becomes less friendly. We actually never launched an electric fleet (even an illegal one 😉 and suggest that a new operator can save lots of pain if they can avoid going that route