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Old August 21st, 2011, 05:44 PM   #1
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Cyclo: A road to nowhere

A road to nowhere
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.p...o-nowhere.html

Eated in the carriage of a parked cyclo outside Orussey Market in Phnom Penh, Chey Poch has forgotten the exact date of his birth but knows he is about 70 years old.

“I remember I was born on a Sunday,” he adds while holding a small piece of dark tobacco wrapped in a bright green leaf. Originally from Kampong Speu province, Chey Poch says he began working as a cyclo driver when he was 15. It is the only job he has ever known.

“I like it. It’s simple and I have freedom,” he says. “No one comes to control me and I have done this for so long that it comes naturally.”

Earning about 200,000 riel [$50] a month, Chey Poch says his income has stayed roughly the same for over half a century and, nowadays, is only enough to survive. Removing a folded piece of paper from his left breast pocket, Chey Poch describes it as a safety precaution because the other vehicles on the road have become larger, faster and more frequent.

“This paper has my name, the phone number for the cyclo’s owner, the names of my family and where I am from,” he says while following the neatly written list of Khmer letters with his fingertip. Other than the clothes he wears and a cap to block the sun, Chey Poch says the paper is one of his few possessions.

“[Cyclo drivers] may be poor but we are healthy and we have power,” he states, standing up to offer a demonstration of his talent at wielding the heavy tricycle. “Cyclos are part of Cambodian culture. It’s the symbol of Cambodian people,” he says, doubting that they will ever disappear from the landscape of Phnom Penh.

After a brief midday ride to the place where he rents the cyclo, a ravine of sweat is revealed on Chey Poch’s back as it seeps through his grey shirt.

“I will pedal until I have no more energy to pedal,” he says, adding that he knows of Cambodians in their 80s and 90s who still cycle for a living.

Over a dozen cyclo stations are tucked into the back alleys and side streets of the city. These hubs serve as the last outposts for men to rent cyclos in Phnom Penh.

“For $1.00 per day they can rent a cyclo from me,” explains In Sophara, 54, the owner of the cyclo depot who says that the fee includes shelter and water for the drivers he refers to as “soldiers”.

“Everyone comes here to sleep but I have a 10:00pm curfew,” he adds. “Those who come after I lock the door must sleep outside. I am strict about that.”

Ten years in the business, In Sophara says it began as a way to help cyclo drivers because he views them as less fortunate. “Most of the drivers are poor and from rural areas. If they could get a job in their village I don’t think they would come to the city. There are not many opportunities in rural areas other than rice paddies,” he states. “I would see them sleeping on the [city] streets waiting for a cyclo to rent from other people. Seeing this situation I ordered a few cyclos for the drivers [to rent] because I felt pity for them.

“Only my cyclos have a telephone number on the back,” he states. “If someone needs a cyclo or if there is an accident, people can call the number. It’s my phone.”

Revealing more about the men who rent up to 30 cyclos from him per day, In Sophara says the average age is 40 and most are married. His observations chime with those of other depots and surveys taken in the city.

“All of my drivers are married and have children,” explains Eng Veng, 63, who rents nine cyclos for 3000 riel a day on Street 508. He also offers a place for cyclo drivers to sleep. “If I don’t provide them with shelter, who will?” he asks.

Operating the business as an aside to his main enterprise – used stereo equipment and speakers – Eng Veng says there is no profit in cyclos but he does what he can to help out, asking: “If I sell my cyclos how will they make a living?”

The two businessmen, who do not know one another, are in agreement that the vast majority of those who rent cyclos are migrant workers.

“Some will go visit their families in the village for two or three days each month,” In Sophara says. Among the regular group of drivers that frequent his business, In Sophara says about half of them have returned to their villages for the rainy season in order to tend their rice fields and adds that a few might not return.

“Some have saved their money and bought motorbikes,” he offers as the most common reason for losing a cyclo driver. As the pace of Phnom Penh speeds up, cyclos are falling to the wayside as streets become increasingly populated with motorbikes, tuk tuks and other motorised vehicles.

Pulling her hair back while standing close to the sidewalk on Street 161, Keo Chantha, 48, says that she has been burned a few times by cyclo drivers since she started in the rental business eight years ago.

“I had no experience with renting cyclos,” confesses Keo Chantha, who bought a few from drivers who once frequented her previous business, a wine bar. “Regular customers suggested that I buy cyclos because they had no money and wanted me to rent to them,” she recalls. “But some of them sold my cyclos after they rented from me.”

Stating that the business is still “messy”, she does not offer drivers shelter and no longer rents to people unless they are referred by others. “They must be trustworthy,” she says, pointing to the number 74 that is painted in white on the back of a cyclo carriage – one of 100 she now owns – as a means of tracking her inventory.

Offering other explanations for the dwindling number of cyclo drivers, In Sophara says that parts are becoming more expensive.

“Repairs are costly and the cyclo owners [who usually pay for repairs] are making less and less money,” he says. Wearing only blue sandals and three-quarter-length pyjama pants festooned with cartoon kittens, In Sophara digs through a box of spare pieces in his depot and explains that he fixes the tricycles himself.

Tires are the most common problem and last no more than two years, according to cyclo owners who say that little remains of the original models. “Over time all of the parts have been replaced except for the axles,” In Sophara says. “The axles are original and have been used for a very long time since the French era. I think they will last forever. Their quality is the best.”

Estimates for the number of cyclos in Phnom Penh are sparse, though according to the Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh (CCPP), an NGO established in 1999, over 1300 cyclo drivers were registered members of the organisation before it closed last year in April.

“The closure was caused by budget and administrative problems,” explains Im Sambath, 35, executive director of the Cyclo Conservation and Careers Association (CCCA), an organisation that has continued in place of the CCPP on Street 158.

“The 2009 financial crisis had a harsh effect on our funding from international donors, including the USA,” he explains, adding that the new office is still in the process of securing funding.

As a volunteer with the CCPP since 2004, Im Sambath says he intends to continue offering crucial services to cyclo drivers, including language training, basic medical coverage and safety equipment. As a testament to the impact of CCPP, the NGO won an award in 2004 from the World Health Organisation for its ‘Smoke-Free Cyclo’ program.

However, only one year after CCCA was established, Im Sambath says the number of members is much lower than before, with only 224 cyclo drivers having registered. This could partly be due to another new obstacle faced by cyclo owners and drivers: “In 2005 one cyclo was $40 but now the price has more than doubled,” Im Sambath explains.

Outside the CCCA office, about 10 cyclo drivers, all dressed in green shirts, rent the cyclos for a fee of 1000 riel a day and work with tourism operators by providing foreign visitors with a novel form of transportation. It is in stark contrast to the other cyclos that depend on Cambodian customers, but also an indication of the way the tricycles are going.

“The amount of work we receive depends on the company,” explains Mao Cheon, 44, a cyclo driver and member of the association. “Sometimes we get hired for a full-day or half-day. Other times we get only one hour,” he continues, adding that tourists are charged $3 per hour. Drivers say they get half of the money but there is no accommodation.

“We sleep everywhere,” says Mao Cheon. “But ideally we find a place without mosquitoes.”


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Old August 21st, 2011, 05:52 PM   #2
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I believe this is a very dangerous job, lots of motocycle and car drivers drive like nuts, and this does put these cyclos rider and passenger in great dangerous.

And these people is earning so little is it really worth the risk.

On the other hand, my cousin used it once maybe 3 years ago, not to get home, just joy ride around Wat Phnom area, and she think is a very enjoyable experience. It is probably better as the traffic is probably not as bad many years ago.
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Old August 23rd, 2011, 06:32 AM   #3
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Yes, it is very dangerous to take those motor-tuk and cyclo. Cyclo are beginning to disappear on the streets nowadays, while motor-tuk are becoming more common. I recall a car accident once where the passenger was injured and bleeding in her forehead as a result of the motor-tuk flip over
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Old August 24th, 2011, 03:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeeMacau
Yes, it is very dangerous to take those motor-tuk and cyclo. Cyclo are beginning to disappear on the streets nowadays, while motor-tuk are becoming more common. I recall a car accident once where the passenger was injured and bleeding in her forehead as a result of the motor-tuk flip over
Cyclo could be a good for tourist attraction, it gives you unrestricted view as the rider is behind you, if only we could find a way to make it safer.
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Old August 24th, 2011, 06:37 AM   #5
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Yes, but traffic in Phnom Penh is getting worse these days. Good idea to have cyclo around Independent Monument, Wat Phnom, Royal Palace, National Museum and riverside (anytime outside of rush hours)
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Old September 28th, 2011, 07:45 AM   #6
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Yes, it is very dangerous to take those motor-tuk and cyclo
I've heard Hanoi will stop this sort in 2012!
But I will miss it very much!
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Old September 28th, 2011, 09:43 AM   #7
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People can take bus in Hanoi, but here in Phnom Penh there are no other means of public transportation if all motortuks and cyclos are banned on the street.
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Old September 28th, 2011, 11:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeeMacau View Post
People can take bus in Hanoi, but here in Phnom Penh there are no other means of public transportation if all motortuks and cyclos are banned on the street.
Obviously, a public transport system will need to be implement prior to any motor-tuk ban.
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Old March 20th, 2012, 10:50 AM   #9
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I have never seen so many Cyclo in action.







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Old January 11th, 2013, 05:07 AM   #10
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Cyclos given a helping push
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/Nationa...ping-push.html
Quote:
Sin Sokhum has been plying the streets of Phnom Penh on his trusty cyclo for 34 years.

The $5 the 59-year-old grandfather of seven earns most days goes a long way to helping his family buy fertilizer and livestock for their two-hectare farm back home, in Kampong Speu.

In the capital, however, Sokhum spends each night huddled together with a small group of fellow cyclo drivers on the corner of street 13 and 130 to sleep in their pedicabs parked on the sidewalk. Sleeping in the open is not without its peril.

“Last time, there were men who sold drugs on the same street and it can be dangerous,” he said.

Im Sambath, president of the Cyclo Conservation and Careers Association (CCCA), said they have tracked a number of cases where cyclo drivers have had money stolen while sleeping rough.

The challenges faced by cyclo drivers are something the government and CCCA are trying to tackle in the hopes of staunching their dwindling ranks; now there are fewer than 500 drivers. Yesterday, representatives from the CCCA met with Tourism Minister Thong Khon to discuss if safer accommodation or night-time parking space could be found for cyclo drivers.

Among the ideas floated was to arrange shelter within pagodas, something Sambath said he would discuss with chief monks.

As cyclo numbers continue to drop amid an ever-widening landscape of cars and motorbikes, Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for keeping the iconic cyclo a viable mode of transport in Phnom Penh. The Tourism Ministry, meanwhile, has latched on to the idea as a way to charm visitors.

“Cyclos are a green mode of transport and a favourite with tourists. It will contribute to making Phnom Penh a green city,” said Khon.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 05:08 AM   #11
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I can't believe there is actually a Cyclo Conservation and Careers Association.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 05:12 AM   #12
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Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for keeping the iconic cyclo a viable mode of transport in Phnom Penh. The Tourism Ministry, meanwhile, has latched on to the idea as a way to charm visitors.
They earn so little, people can hardly make a career out of it.

Quote:
“Cyclos are a green mode of transport and a favourite with tourists. It will contribute to making Phnom Penh a green city,” said Khon.
It is way to slow to be a viable transport.

Phnom Penh is hardly a green city. Not until we have a reliable public transport.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 05:15 AM   #13
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I think the city really needs to invest in public buses, so we can get rid of the tuk tuks. But tuks tuks can still be around, you just need a license for it.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 06:22 AM   #14
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There are probably far too many tuk tuk around now, some don't make any money.

It is also dangerous to allow tuk tuk to carry more passengers then it is intended for, I have once seen one tuk tuk carry 14 people.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 06:40 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrfusion
There are probably far too many tuk tuk around now, some don't make any money.

It is also dangerous to allow tuk tuk to carry more passengers then it is intended for, I have once seen one tuk tuk carry 14 people.
Holy! How did they all fit?! Also with tuk tuks they waste parking spaces where people ACTUALLY need to park. I just see the driers always sleeping. Like come on how do you expect to get money by doing that?! I wonder what happened to that bus project the city was going to do.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 10:19 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by HarroDom View Post
Holy! How did they all fit?!
6 sitting normally on the seat, 3 sit on laps, 2 sit on the front of the cart, a few smaller, maybe 6 years old standing in the middle, and one or two actually hanging outside the cart.


Quote:
Also with tuk tuks they waste parking spaces where people ACTUALLY need to park.
Most are not even proper parking space.

Quote:
I just see the driers always sleeping.
Because driving around to look for customer cost them petrol, they might as well wait at place where they are likely to pick up guest.
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Old October 6th, 2013, 11:44 AM   #17
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Last stop for cyclo mending
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/busines...-cyclo-mending
Quote:
At the last cyclo repair shop in central Phnom Penh, six mechanics lie back in recliners. The post-lunch lull means fewer customers, fewer jobs to complete.

But the creaky arrival of a cyclo stirs the shop on Street 118 to life. Like a pit crew, the men jump into action, milling around the three-wheeled rickshaw to see what needs fixing, which turns out to be nothing more complicated than a punctured tyre.

The driver has a chat to the shop’s owner, Hou Sreng, and slips him some cash. Sreng waits for the next driver to pull up, and then the next. Business might be slower than ever, but all the drivers in the city know Sreng.

“In the 1990s, there were many cyclo spare parts and repair shops along this street,” he said. “Then it stopped. Some left to go abroad, some just quit and moved elsewhere. Now it is just me.”

Sreng started selling cyclo parts in 1980. The venture didn’t pan out so he tried driving a taxi, which was also short-lived. Other career paths led to other dead ends. In 1993, he returned to his roots and opened up a shop, mainly to be closer to his family.

For a while, business was decent. But the variety of transportation options soon pushed the cyclo trade, and shops like his, into near extinction. He had to diversify into moto repair to stay afloat, while renting out a fleet of 30 cyclos for 2,000 riel each per day, or about 50 cents.

“I used to get by just selling cyclo spare parts. I could sell 10 tyres a day, now it is more like two or three,” he said.

Cyclos were popularised in the 1930s, the French colonial era, but most of the cyclos on the streets today were manufactured in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1980, there were about 5,000 cyclos in the capital. The number dwindled to 1,000 in 2010.

Today, just 517 cyclos remain in the capital, according to research conducted by Cambodia’s Cyclo Conservation and Career Association (CCCA).

The fewer cyclos, the less need for cyclo shops, and the businesses that relied on repairs either packed it in or starting fixing other modes of transport.

Im Sambath, director of CCCA, said part of the decline can be blamed on wear and tear. Cyclos that are still in use are becoming more expensive to fix, and it’s increasingly difficult to find spare parts, according to Sambath. He pointed to Sreng’s shop as the final bastion.

“No new cyclos are made in Cambodia now, and the manufacturer that produces cyclo spare parts in Vietnam has recently cut production.”

Cyclo driver Hor Samon, a member of CCCA, which also helps drivers drum up business through several initiatives, said he was loaded with passengers before tuk-tuks took Phnom Penh over.

Samon said that he caters mostly to the elderly, who use his services after a day of shopping.

“But now I am very free. Some days, I fall asleep in my cyclo waiting for clients,” the 59-year-old veteran said.

Ly Heang, the chief mechanic at the cyclo shop, knows something about waiting for clients.

“I used to be busy all day long,” Heang said, “but now I have a lot of free time.”

In the good days, he would fix up to 30 in a shift. Now, moto repairs are much more common.

“The shop would be full with cyclo drivers,” said the 24-year mechanic, who learned his trade from fixing bicycles.

According to Heang, it costs around $300 in parts to assemble a cyclo – that’s if you can find the materials.

Sreng, the owner, stopped importing new parts more than three years ago, because some of them aren’t produced any more. When asked why he keeps up the trade, he adopts a going-down-with-the-ship attitude.

He’ll keep going, he said, until “there are no more cyclos”.
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Old October 6th, 2013, 11:52 AM   #18
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