Thursday, July 26, 2007


Twenty years ago, some genius with a welding machine cobbled together some GI pipes and flat bars and a bench and a wheel into a sidecar. Said genius bolted the sidecar onto a bicycle and -- voila! -- the trisikad was born. That's the story as it goes here in Davao anyway.

Twenty years later, that protogenical trisikad has spawned into hundreds of other clones in the city, along with other mutant variants like the trisiboat, which is a trisikad with a modified pumpboat motor.

A trisikad looks thus: the bicycle is typically an old BMX, with its small wheels not the most efficient, but probably cheaper than most. Attached to the bike is the sidecar, a flat platform with a bicycle wheel. On the platform is a thinly cushioned bench that seats two. A gigantic lawn umbrella, attached between bike and sidecar, protects driver and passengers from the heat of the sun.

Providing motive power for the trisikad is the trisikad driver, invariably a wiry sunburnt male in sando and tsinelas. The avarage age of the driver is in the mid-20's but the variance is spread wide: as young as the teens to as old as the fifties. These fellows live hard lives and you can see it.

The trisikads ply the corner routes of Davao City usually near subdivisions and schools. They are regulated by the local barangays and have their own associations. Beyond that, there's not much else. If you're injured while riding, good luck filing a claim of any sort. Chances are, the fellow will just scratch his head.

Trisikads are a constant source of irritation for motorists. They're slow, they're ungainly, and with their converted lawn umbrellas, they take up a lot of space. They're a hazard, too, as motorists have no choice but to cut into the other lane to pass them, often in the face of oncoming traffic. Yes, just like the pedicabs of Dumaguete, only much worse.

Regardless of the dangers they pose, it looks like the trisikad will be here to stay. From the economic perspective, there's no shortage of customers who'd rather ride than walk the distance. For all the measly farthings that such an occupation brings, well, it seems some people think it's worth it.

The trisikads are so numerous and well-entrenched that it's probably political suicide to pass any ordinances against them. Such is the trouble once an unregulated homegrown industry like this takes root.

Prevention, as they say, is better than a cure. Cebu took this route way back when, and specifically forbade trisikads for the road hazards that they were. Nip it in the bud early enough, before it becomes some underproductive ersatz livelihood and it never grows into a problem that you'll have to deal with later on.


  1. i agree that trisikads (padyaks, pedicabs) are here to stay - and like I said in this post, no matter how much they irritate motorists, you just can't beat their environmental cred.

    what we need to do is to give them a place in our roads and our urban design. (after all, what makes us think that the person in the car is more import than the person in the trisikad? do you have less of a right to city infra investments because you don't run on gas?)

  2. True enough. But in the meantime, until such provisions have been made, can we keep them from sharing space with other vehicles?

    I suppose what irritates me most about the trisikad (and their passengers) is that the distances they travel could just as easily be walked, plus the fact that the space one trisikad takes up is equivalent to an entire sidewalk!

  3. Only some twenty years old in Davao? I have my doubts.

    Because in our northern part of Mindanao, the pedicab has been in existence for a time I cannot even recollect. Maybe, say, as long as I have seen bicycles been used. Before the present use of ferrying passengers, they were used by merchants to carry inventory around. Thus there is no doubt that its relevance and use are here to stay. Cagayan de Oro has not even been able to completely drive to extinction its lowly tartanillas (or that would be calesa, in the northern parts of the country), which still ply the sidestreets.

    Last I visited the old hometown which was early this year, saw the pedicab’s newest metamorphosis, one looking like it was skillfully crafted since they looked so much like each other, and marketed this time to residents. Thus, used either by yayas to drive or paseo their charges around the subdivision, or maybe, drive them to nearby schools. Differentiated from those who wait around the gates of subdivisions and ferry residents to their doors.

    A very versatile and resourceful mode of transport, indeed.

    Cagayan de Oro also gave birth to the motorela, or now shortened to rela, in the 60’s. It is a decidedly a better version of the motorcab with its sidecar. The rela has the cycle in the middle of the structure and has a total of 4 wheels.