With a roof made of straw and seat of smoothened bamboo, the cycle rickshaw plying on the campus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi seems like a product straight out of a swanky designer’s stable. It is, almost. Designed and developed by the Centre for Rural Development and Technology (CRDT) of IIT, Delhi, the bamboo-made cycle rickshaw carries an aura akin to a showpiece symbol. But the eco-friendly vehicle is a cool customer on the road. “It weighs at least 4 kg less than a metal rickshaw and is more balanced towards the front,” says Ramdas Kashyap, the rickshaw driver who received the first bamboo rickshaw in IIT, Delhi three years ago.
The IIT, Delhi has two bamboo-made rickshaws in its fleet of 17 cycle rickshaws on the campus. Kashyap says the bamboo rickshaw gives him and his passengers a comfortable ride. “Peadalling on steep paths is especially less straining,” he adds. The frame of the carriage is made from bamboo, except the front portion, including the front tyre and handle bar. Another bamboo rickshaw added later increased the bamboo content using the natural material to replace the metal bar under the carriage connecting the front portion. The drivers are happy that the frame does not heat up in the summer like the metal ones do. “The most important thing is it is run on bamboo,” says Kashyap sporting a wide grin on his face.
Vijayaraghavan Chariar, IIT, Delhi’s associate professor, who was involved in the development of the bamboo rickshaw, says, “Bamboo is an excellent engineering material. We are looking for various applications for bamboo, especially for cycles and cycle rickshaws. The farmers who cultivate bamboo benefits from it as well the artisans who make the rickshaws and the drivers who have to put in less efforts. The tourists also love it.”
Bamboo rickshaws like IIT, Delhi’s is a rare achievement in finding fresh designs for the rickshaw. “Though the improvement from the initial hand-pulled rickshaw to a cycle rickshaw was a radical change, the traditional cycle rickshaw has remained the same for almost half a century,” says Shreya Gadepalli, India head of the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy(ITDP). “The technical improvement of the rickshaw in India has been too little and too far apart,” adds Gadepalli, who was the technical consultant to the India Cycle Rickshaw Improvement Project, launched in 1999 by ITDP