News / Africa

Autorickshaws Venture into Car-Crazy Johannesburg

Autorickshaws much like these in central Hyderabad, India, are scheduled for a February 2013 pilot-program launch in the trendy Melville suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, March 6, 2012.
Autorickshaws much like these in central Hyderabad, India, are scheduled for a February 2013 pilot-program launch in the trendy Melville suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, March 6, 2012.
Anita Powell
Car-crazy Johannesburg is about to get its first fleet of auto-rickshaws, the distinctive three-wheelers that dominate streets of the Indian subcontinent.

For residents of South Africa’s most populous city, the cart-like, combustion-engine pedicabs carry the promise of an economical, eco-friendly solution to urban transportation demands. With more than 900,000 cars for its 3.8-million inhabitants, Johannesburg, says a 2010 report by the International Association of Public Transport, boasts the continent’s highest vehicles-to-people ratio.
 
According to Rina Jeyakumar, co-founder of e-Tuk Tuk, the group leading the green-transit initiative, the low-emission, tiny 3-passenger vehicles promote an environment where some of those drivers can leave their cars at home.
 
“[It means] less congestion, increased safety, less drinking and driving on the road, et cetera,” she says, describing it as an affordable alternative for the millions who rely on public transportation.
 
Slated for a February 2013 launch in the city’s trendy Melville suburb — home to many of the University of Johannesburg’s 30,000 students — the vehicles will stick to a five-kilometer range and cater mainly to the central enclave’s targeted clientele of academics, journalists and creative types.
 
Imported from Indian automaker Bajaj for $4,000 each, the vehicles, restricted to speeds of 40 kilometers per hour, will stick to smaller streets that connect key destinations and mass-transit hubs.
 
Although Jeyakumar’s team is still working to establish fares, which are expected to be comparable to other public-transit options, she says her group is hoping to see the initiative expand to neighboring regions.
 
Form, function and performance (sort of)
 
What tuk-tuks lack in speed is made up for with the riding experience.

“It’s like being on a safari in the middle of Jo’burg,” says e-Tuk Tuk co-founder Deon Fourie, explaining that the open-air, windowless vehicles afford passengers an immediate integration with the passing landscape.

In a way, he’s right. After a 20-minute ride on the tuk-tuk, one understands how South Africa’s exotic animals feel: Normally stoic inner-city residents stop, gawk, wave, honk and even take photos of the curious car.
 
Along Melville’s main drag, some restaurant-goers hold their beers aloft as the tuk-tuk passes.

At an auto shop in the historically South Asian suburb of Mayfair, 25-year-old Louis Groenwald sneers at the little red vehicle as he makes a few custom modifications to his Mazda sports car.

“I’ve seen it but I don’t like it,” he says. “There’s no doors to it… There’s no style.”

Others, however, appear to welcome the newcomer.
 
One taxi driver named Thabo brings his 3-year-old son over to take a look. He points proudly to his blue Toyota van, saying that he thinks the two vehicles can co-exist.

“Oh, nice, very nice this thing. I like it,” he exclaims. “It’s very nice and it’s very small, this thing.”
 
Like similar auto-rickshaw initiatives that have found success in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, the e-Tuk Tuk team hopes to carve out its own (small) space, and see its South African fleet of three vehicles expand in both number and efficiency.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs