IN the 1960s and early 1970s, the trishaw was the “other” mode of transport besides the bus, taxi and car. Indeed, it was a thriving trade.
It was especially convenient for people who wanted to travel short distances. There were instances when riders had to pedal all the way across town to ferry passengers. The trishaw rider was always polite and obliging, and would never say “no” to passengers.
There were also trishaw riders who were hired to fetch children to and from school on a regular basis.
They ferried senior citizens and pregnant women to clinics and hospitals.
Some were paid to deliver groceries to homes and restaurants. They were also popular among tourists.
Sadly, as the country developed and more people bought cars, the trishaw faded into the woodwork.
Today, trishaw riders are a dying breed, except in Melaka and Penang.
In Melaka, trishaws are beautifully decorated and equipped with loudspeakers playing popular Hindi and dangdut tunes. They are mostly found along the streets around the iconic colonial Dutch buildings. Tourists can be seen taking photographs and selfies in the trishaw.
In Penang, there are about 150 trishaw riders and they are facing a bleak future. Business is poor and they are not able to make ends meet. The riders spend most of the time sleeping in their trishaws.
Perhaps, it would be worthwhile to revive the trishaw trade. After all, it is part of our history and heritage. We should treasure it. It needs to be rebranded and promoted to bring in tourism revenue.
The old trishaws could be replaced by modern mechanised models to ease the burden of riders.
Tour operators could include trishaw rides in their tour packages. Hotels in Melaka and Penang could also promote trishaw rides to their hotel guests.
The trishaw riders could take language courses so that they can converse with tourists. In the past, trishaw riders were excellent tourist guides as they knew every inch of the city and where the best hawker food was to be found.