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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid