The tuk-tuk

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The tuk-tuk (ตุ๊กตุ๊ก or ตุ๊กๆ in Thai) is the Southeast Asian version of a vehicle known elsewhere as an auto rickshaw or cabin cycle. It is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkok and other Thai cities, as well as other major Southeast Asian and South Asian cities. It is particularly popular where traffic congestion is a major problem, such as in Bangkok. Tuk-tuks were introduced in Brighton, England on 10th July 2006, where a fleet of twelve (spelt TucTuc) operate using compressed natural gas, as the first motorised rickshaw service in Europe, between Brighton Marina and Hove, via Brighton railway station.



The tuk-tuk may have a sheet metal body (painted mild steel) or open frame with canvas roof and drop-down sides. Some have ornate tin ornamental hammerings or carvings for decoration. The roof may be either mild steel or a water-proofed canvas, riveted to round tubing. Water-proof removable sides can be added in the rainy season. Resting on three small wheels (one in front, two on the rear), there is a small cabin for the driver in the front and seating for three in relative comfort in the rear. They are very maneuverable and can turn around in one lane of traffic with room to spare.


Tuk-tuks are generally fitted with a water-cooled two-stroke engine. They have handlebar controls instead of a steering wheel, making them a tricycle. The tuk-tuk is named after the sound its two-stroke engine makes when it is idling. It may have been derived from a similar Japanese automobile Daihatsu Midget in the 1950s (later Bajaj of Indonesia), although tuk-tuks of the type used in Brighton, England evolved from the Vespa scooter (later Bajaj of India), using old Piaggio Vespa pattern tooling and a Piaggio-derived 175cc engine. These were the front half of a Vespa, with an axle created for the rear, badged (in Vespa-style) as the Ape. These were used with truck bodies, pick-up bodies and eventually taxi bodies. Later the legshields were extended all the way up and over to create a roof. They generally are low geared, to allow the small engine to move comparatively large loads. Given the low gearing, Tuk-tuks have a high torque-to-weight ratio and can accelerate quite quickly making them nimble, especially in heavy traffic. The lack of high speed capability is irrelevant in heavy urban traffic.


Tuk-tuk drivers may have migrated from the provinces and have a reputation for not knowing the city in which they work very well, therefore getting people lost. Tuk-tuks do not have meters and users generally bargain with the driver for a price to take them to a specified destination. In Bangkok, there is now a maximum fee which drivers may not exceed. This has tended to become the default fee for foreigners. As with all unmetered transport, not agreeing to a fee before departure can risk unethical practice by the driver.


Drivers also earn money by having advertising posters and placards on their tuk-tuks. In early 2005 many of them were covered in advertising for the 6 February election. Tuk-tuk drivers can earn fuel vouchers or other commissions by diverting passengers to certain businesses that cater to tourists, possibly against the passenger's expressed wishes. Most drivers also decorate their tuk-tuks with religious charms and small Buddha images.

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