The future has got three wheels

I've seen the future of short-haul public transport in Oxford, and it's got three wheels.

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Published February 6, 2007 by Oxford Mail :: On Yer Bike: a view from the gutter

I've seen the future of short-haul public transport in Oxford, and it's got three wheels. Oxford's cycling community is abuzz with talk of the new bicycle-rickshaws, or pedicabs'. You may have seen them gliding around the city centre, ferrying overdressed students to and from college balls, but I hadn't seen one until yesterday.

They're a tricycle with a solid 85kg chassis, highly-geared and with fancy brakes. The ample seats happily accommodate two corpulent passengers, and back at their Jericho garages, the carriages can be swapped for pick-up modules for doing deliveries.

You need to be fit to ride a laden pedicab, and bizarrely, it's probably easier if you aren't a cyclist. I've just ridden one and it was weird. Whereas on a bike, you lean into a corner, on a pedicab, you stay bolt upright – in fact, leaning into a corner makes no difference whatsoever. "They're great fun to ride and it's nice being able to chat to passengers over your shoulder," says Ted Maxwell, the founder of Oxon Carts. Ted's thigh muscles doubled in size over the busy Christmas period and he's never felt more tired than at the end of New Year's Eve, but he and his riders love it.

Ted got the idea while holidaying in Scandinavia last summer. "Bicycle-rickshaws are an integral part of the transport system in several Nordic cities. I thought: Why aren't they in Oxford already?' Oxford is flat enough and it has the cycling culture," says Ted. The entrepreneurial history undergraduate began to put out feelers last autumn. "Of course it'll work," was the unanimous and obvious verdict. Although 11 years ago Erica Steinhauer's bicycle-rickshaw business failed, Ted is convinced that times have changed. So convinced, in fact, that he before he knew it, he'd set up Oxon Carts and imported five £2,000 pedicabs from the States.

A typical pedicab journey is the five-minute hop with your suitcase from the train station to High Street or with a heavy purchase from, say, Boswell's to Jericho – even up Headington Hill "if you ask nicely!"

Pedicabs offer the journeys that you can't make by bus or cab through our congested medieval streets. They're doing cabbies a favour, too, as these short but traffic-snarled journeys earn cabbies the least.

Pedicabs in Oxford tick all the boxes: no need to worry about CO2 emissions or diesel fumes. Having access to cycle lanes and short cuts means they're much quicker than a taxi. They reduce congestion and they're a peaceful ride for passengers and pedestrians alike. In all, pedicabs are a win-win proposition for the city.

Local businesses are already using them for deliveries large and small, and you can book a private-hire service on 07747 024600 or www.oxoncarts.com Unfortunately, due to hackney carriage licensing complications, they can't yet act as hailable on-street cabs. However, Oxon Carts see their future as plying the streets and customers want the freedom to hail a passing pedicab, so getting a taxi licence is the next step. Gird your loins for the three-wheeled revolution.