BuddhaPedalPower is designed to spark a quiet revolution for transport starting in the “Global South” – reflecting the qualities of Lumbini in Nepal, Buddha's birthplace - where our modernized rickshaws were first introduced in spring 2017.
Our ambition was not to disrupt the world with a big bold statement, but to create a quiet transformational force to grow the humble rickshaw into a modern, sustainable and ultimately global transport mode - while at the same time serving the people "driving the revolution".
Photo credits: Catapult
BuddhaPedalPower is a tricycle pedicab based mobility system that is tailored to:
Rickshaw services are currently under attack, facing bans and crippling new regulations in Asia as both the transport authorities and the general public alike, often perceive them as an obstacle in the transition to a sleek, perfectly coordinated transport system for the 21st century.
Nevertheless customers are still flocking to the traditional rickshaw services, because they provide a relatively quick and affordable first/last mile service for large parts of the population – one of the reasons why rickshaws still boast a higher mode share than cars or buses in many Asian cities. BuddhaPedalPower capitalizes on this existing market opportunity, by providing a modernized version of the rickshaw. 60 tricycles have been deployed in Nepal in June 2017 (some peddle only, some with electric assist) and the uptake of the service has been hugely positive. We are currently evaluating feedback from drivers, riders and transport authorities to improve the system as a whole.
To achieve our mission brought together institutions who enjoy trust and support from Asian transport authorities and the local population alike (Asian Development Bank), are famous for their world class design and engineering (MIT Media Lab), have in depth knowledge of service provision for low-income customers (Catapult Design) and are enthusiastic to partner with other experts ranging from small scale bike hackers to local pedicab drivers - all led by Peace Corps veteran and bike-enthusiast Bradley Schroeder.
Bradley was the proverbial hub of the wheel, bundling our energies to get the project on the road. He made sure that we always coordinated the redesign of the pedi-cab (the product) with locally tailored business models (the service).
Bradley Schroeder suddenly passed away in October in Lao PDR while working on the wider implementation of the project and we are applying to the Fast Company award in his memory.
The unique composition of our global team (MIT Media Lab, Catapult Design, Asian Development Bank) who brings together the funds, the institutional backing, the local respect & global know how, the engineering and design experience and the enthusiasm to pull this idea of ground and sustain it through three years of iteration and discussion and local manufacturing woes – until we actually delivered it this summer to the rickshaw industry in Nepal and beyond.
Compared to many other projects the people collaborating in this project transcended their institutional roles and borders, pushed beyond bureaucratic limitations and re-conceptualized not only the "pedicab as a product", but also the underlying business models by being able to target complementary customer groups (daily, local users and tourists) and the funding, ownership and operation models enhancing the livelihoods of the local drivers.
Which is why we would love to see this brought forward as a Philippines-Austria-USA-Lao-Singapore-Hongkong-Nepal project, honoring Bradley Schroeder (in memoriam) who made sure we always found a way to stay on track and get it done - including this last minute application that we brought together with contributions of the team based in all the countries mentioned above. (We were not able to reflect this global collaboration in the application form, as we had to select one institution and country only).
Bradley passed away at the beginning of October in Vientiane, Lao PDR while working on the further implementation of the project.
The major innovation is BuddhaPedalPower successfully tackling the often overlooked rickshaw market that can quietly, reliably and sustainably service the transport needs of large parts of the population in Asia - all the while providing livelihoods for the drivers, keep transport emissions low (in a region that currently doubles is motorized fleet every 5-7 years) and even influence how we globally perceive human powered transportation services.
The core team: Bradley Schroeder, George Chen, Maruf Hossain, Michael Linke Prashanta Khanal, Chris Trees, Florence Trees, Karin Carter, Raj Gvawali, Noel Wilson, Michael Lin, Llyod Wright and Katja Schechtner
Photo credits: Catapult