Have you ever tried to hail a taxi during rush hour after visiting the Reichstag while touring Berlin? No, not one of those old-fashioned modern and motorized taxis; I’m referring to a cycle rickshaw – or a velotaxi, if you prefer. Berlin has joined the growing number of major non-Asian cities around the world which now offers its visitors the option of seeing the sights while seated upon one of the comfortable passenger seats of a chauffer-peddled tricycle. And no, it’s practically never a problem finding and hailing one of these velotaxis down, either.
Some form of cycle rickshaw transportation is to be found in practically every big European city these days, as well as in a few American cities like New York and San Diego, where something like a mild form of human-powered transport craze seems to have broken out. It seems as if everybody is now interested in being both travel efficient and environmentally friendly at the same time, at least when it comes to getting around town. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention: Considering all of those big city traffic jams out there these days, cycle rickshaws are relatively fast, too.
Manufacturers for these vehicles now abound, and it is not at all uncommon to find these curious looking tricycles equipped with features like auxiliary extra motors (to assist the driver “in difficult situations”), hydraulic disc brakes, and ultra-lightweight fiberglass bodies. And as for the velotaxis you will find in Berlin, they are very nimble and aerodynamic-looking vehicles, as well. These colorful “CityCruisers” are not only unmistakable when you see one crossing your path (and they will cross your path), the drivers are openly proud of the German green tradition that has helped established their vehicle’s popular reputation, striving as they do to combine ultra-modern big city transport and efficient ecological innovation.
But when I use the word colorful here, I am also referring to the “advertising in motion” idea that the Berlin velotaxi concept has brought along with it. The CityCruiser fleets have chalked up more than their fair share of flashy advertising campaigns, and big global players like Vodafone, Nike, and Sony have also gladly paid to come along for the ride.
Try and leave your old-fashioned notions about what a rickshaw is supposed to be behind you. One doesn’t have to be all too concerned about exhausting the velotaxi drivers in Berlin, in other words. Generally traveling along at a comfortable peddling speed of 10 to 15 km per hour, the latest version of the Berlin CityCruiser even sports in addition to its battery system and mini-motor a cell-fuelled engine and re-charger, as well – after all, overweight tourists like me will abound in places like Berlin, too, and velotaxi drivers don’t have to go peddling up the streets of San Francisco to appreciate an occasional break here when needed. But heavy tourists or not, these high-tech systems only need a minimal amount of methanol for all of these comfortable extras and, needles to say, the carbon dioxide emissions for these vehicles are negligible.
Well over one thousand vehicles like these have been brought into service in Germany during the past ten years, bringing with them an estimated 200 jobs in Berlin alone. It is believed that more than a thousand cycle rickshaw drivers are underway throughout Germany during “velotaxi season”, roughly from April to October. And their popularity is growing, too.
Seek and you shall find your cycle rickshaw in Berlin. You can hail down or reserve a CityCruiser for whatever you might wish, whether it be an organized tour of downtown Berlin or as shuttle craft to and from cultural events or congress locales. They are all over the place, in other words, although more frequently found at popular locations where tourists tend to congregate, of course.
So whether tiring a bit after a leisurely walk down the Kurfuerstendamm or Unter den Linden or tired of admiring Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate, you can always choose to sit back and relax and let someone else do the walking for you – the peddling, I mean.
Back to the hotel please, James. And don’t make it snappy.