Rickshaws, perhaps better known now as pedicabs, have come into vogue in recent years as a greener and easier alternative for getting around in crowded American cities. Next week in particular, thousands of visitors will swarm Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest festival, and will likely rely on some 500 or more pedicabbies for transportation between events.
That said, none of those carriages are likely to be as stunning as Eclipse, a new rickshaw concept that its designer Kenneth Cobonpue calls "a more civilized version of the humble three-wheeler."
In both the United States and in South America and Asia (where Cobonpue’s studio is headquartered) modern rickshaw designs haven’t evolved much past their original 1800s counterparts—and in some ways, that’s okay. Passenger carts are low-tech by definition: they operate off the grid and are used exclusively for short distance travel. At the same time, if rickshaws came with a few more amenities, perhaps their adoption rate would imprive in urban areas.
Cobonpue’s proposal includes things that passengers might find on an Amtrak or in a new car: cupholders, an iPhone charging dock, speakers, a fan, and panels that can close. The feel of luxury is meant to extend to the peddler, too: the handlebars and seats are covered in soft, but waterproof, hand-stitched faux leather. The entire vehicle is built from aluminum and a woven polyethylene, so it’s both sturdy and lightweight. The piece is in line with Cobonpue's other work, which features woven, hardy, outdoor furniture.
Small creature comforts—like a place to set down your coffee, or not stressing over a dying phone battery—are tactics that other designers are considering when trying to sway behavior patterns. For instance, Fuseproject's recently announced line of outdoor furniture is crafted specifically to make locking up a bike a less physically awkward experience. Likewise, Cobonpue wants riders to think of Eclipse as no less comfortable than a cushy, automobile car. "Lightweight environmentally friendly vehicles using green production techniques and materials are the wave of the future," Cobonpue tells Co.Design. "The most challenging aspect is getting people to rethink their traditional modes of transportation."