TAKE A WALK through the middle of Dublin on Friday or a Saturday night and you’d be hard pushed not to run into a rickshaw.
The three-wheeled contraptions zip through the streets of the capital in search of revellers in need of a lift – with their drivers often taking a laissez-faire approach to the road traffic laws.
Earlier this month, the issue was raised in the Dáil when Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster asked Minister for Transport Shane Ross if he’d considered banning them.
As pedal-powered rickshaws fall within the category of ‘pedal cycles’ and are not considered small public service vehicle (as taxis are), Ross said, neither his department or the National Transport Authority (NTA) had the power to ban them.
He did say however that Dublin City Council and the NTA had been talking about the issue between themselves – hinting that the peddled-powered rickshaws might not have the freedom of the roads for too much longer.
As of right now though, they still operate throughout the city.
To find out more about earning a living on the pedals, TheJournal.ie headed out to speak to a few rickshaw drivers about their typical nights.
Grafton Street at 10pm on a Friday night seems to be start of business.
Around the pedestrianised street drivers of the petty cabs are leaning on their handlebars and absentmindedly checking their phones, waiting for things to pick up.
“I work all night. I start at 9pm, sometimes at 10pm and then working until 4am or 4.30am,” says Eduarda, a 25-year-old Brazilian woman who has been rickshaw riding for the past five months.
This is a key time to be out on the street she explains, as – in much the same way the taxis operates – most of the business comes when people are heading to or from the bars.
An occupational hazard of rickshaw riding is that it is a mode of transportation generally preferred by people in various stages of inebriation.
And how does Eduarda feel about this?
“I like them!” she says, “Sometimes it is hard because they disrespect us, because they are drunk and because I am a girl. But most of the time they are cool. They pay and they have fun.”
Because at the end of the day this is entertainment. And it is more expensive than a taxi. So they enjoy it, it is fun for them.
Heading up the street, two other drivers were also waiting for someone to get in the back of their cabs.
Fernando (26) and Atyla (24) are also both from Brazil.
According to Atyla, that is a pretty consistent with the norm – estimating that “around 95%” of rickshaw drivers in Dublin are Brazilians.
Both of them are here to study English, and the pair have found that riding rickshaws has allowed them to finance their stay in Ireland.
“It’s a fantastic job,” says Atyla.
I take the people and it helps to train in my English. It’s amazing for me. I practice English all the time. It’s helping me to achieve my dream.
When it comes to the danger of rickshaws, all three acknowledge that they aren’t the safest mode of transportation – but are also pretty adamant that banning them isn’t the answer.
“We just go around at night. We never cycle during the day,” says Eduarda, “and if they regulated it they might have to pay us per hour, and I’m not sure how that would work. It’s difficult.”
Fernando’s experience has been that gardaí are already starting to clamp down on rickshaw drivers.
At the moment I don’t pay for operating the rickshaw. This is a problem for gardaí sometimes. They stop me a lot and ask me why I’m not working. But it is normal to have the rickshaw on the street.
For Atyla, the responsibility for safety lies with the driver.
“It is safe when the driver rides the bicycle slowly and makes sure to pay attention to the customers. It’s safe. We are responsible,” he says.
There are a people that aren’t responsible but most of us have responsibility with the customers.