Filipino Icon: Tricycle and Pedicab
The tricycle and the pedicab are two of the smaller types of public transportation in the Philippines. They are relatively cheaper to own compared to the jeepney. They generally ply a shorter distance than other modes of transportation, and their size makes them a choice vehicle in urban and rural settings.
The pedicab is a three-wheeled, human-powered mechanical vehicle. It is made up of a bicycle attached to a sidecar that can seat up to two people. These may come with a roof for both the driver and the passengers, or none. It can seat at most four people.
The pedicab is a mixture the words ‘pedal,’ referring to how the bike is powered, and ‘cab,’ referring to the sidecar that ferries people. It is also called the padyak or sikad, the equivalent of the phrase ‘to pedal’ in Tagalog and Bisaya. Another name is traysikad in Bisaya, referring to the number of its wheels.
The tricycle (trike) is a three-wheeled, gasoline-run motorized vehicle. It is made up of a motorcycle attached to a sidecar with multiple seating and a covered roof. The roof is often used as baggage compartment, and the back is often extended to serve the same purpose.
Depending on the size of the sidecar and the number of seating places, the typical tricycle can carry five to seven passengers. In provinces and small towns, where road regulation is less strict, overloading is common and trikes can seat an additional four passengers.
Before the pedicab and the tricycle ever ruled the small roads of the Philippines, the most popular modes of transportation were the horse- or carabao-drawn carriages, the man-pulled rickshaw and the carried hammock
The pedicab traces its roots to the cycle-rickshaw that was borrowed from Japan, replacing the impractical man-pulled rickshaw. In Asia, the cycle-rickshaw boom began in the 1920s in Singapore. Some would believe that the pedicab is the precursor to the tricycle, but the exact date of the introduction of both modes of transportation in the Philippines is unknown.
One source said that the pedicab appeared during World War 2 from Japanese influence and used as a cheap mode of transportation. Meanwhile, it is said that before World War 2, the trike has never been seen anywhere in the country. Another theory says the trikes were born around the same time Army Jeeps were also turned into the iconic mode of public transportation known today as jeepney. The sidecar for the pedicab and tricycle is said to come from scrap parts, notably from GI Army Jeeps.
It is also not recorded when or how the pedicab and trike spread throughout the country. However, the spread of both to different parts of the country resulted in different types and looks so that the modern pedicab and tricycle does not specifically follow a single design.
Modern pedicab and tricycle
The modern pedicab and tricycle are the most common modes of transportation around the Philippines, even beating the iconic kalesa and jeepney. Why? Their size makes them versatile for small roads in urban and rural settings. However, trikes are more widespread since powering them do not require as much effort as the pedicab and they can ply greater distances than the pedicab.
Pedicabs and trikes from various regions in the country do not often look the same. The differences lie heavily in the design and seating capacity of the sidecar. The ‘dashboard’ of the motorcycle may also look different.
Here are some of the pedicabs and tricycles being used today:
A national move to shift to a cleaner, more environment-friendly version of the tricycle has surfaced in the past years. The e-tricycle (e-trike) is seen as the answer to the noisy, energy-wasting and more expensive motorised tricycle.
The e-trike is a battery-powered mode of public transportation that would serve the same purpose as the motorised trike but will give more benefits to the passenger, driver and the environment.
The government’s plan to jumpstart the e-trike project around the country has the backing of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The latter will shoulder the bulk of the project priced at Php21.7b.
In this project, the around 200,000 e-trike units will be launched in Metro Manila while another 3.5 million will be distributed around the country by 2017. As the e-trike project is slowly being implemented, plans for e-trike charging stations are being made.
The pedicab and tricycle may have an unclear origin. But they remain an icon in the Philippines because they are a choice mode of transportation around the country. In effect, they are also a symbol of Filipino ingenuity and versatility that enables us to make do with whatever we have to achieve our goals.