三輪車跑得快 [A pedicab moving kuai (fast)]
上面坐個老太太 [On it rides a lao-tai-tai (an old lady)]
要五毛給一塊 [When asked a fare of 50 cents, she pays yi-kuai ($1)]
你說奇怪不奇怪 [Wouldn't you say that is kind of chi-guai (strange)]
All kids knew it by heart.
Pedicabs with three wheels 三輪車 were once the king of the road in Taiwan. They replaced the much more labor-intensive two-wheeled rickshaws 人力車, shortly after 1945. A handful of both can still be seen today at some tourist spots.
A small number of taxicabs have long been available in Taiwan, at least since the 1920s. So when did the widely available cabs enter the scene, now ubiquitous wherever you go? Answer: 1968. This was when the law banning pedicabs was enacted. In Taipei, for example, the City Gov't bought up, at NT$3,000 apiece, and dismantled all 14,000 of them. And drivers were retrained to operate taxicabs. Some may still be on the job now.
There were three types of pedicabs: (1) stationed; (2) free-flowing; and (3) privately-owned, each had a different registration and mode of operation. Those stationed in one location could be hired out, after negotiating the price with the customers, but no fares were allowed on their return, strictly one-way. The free-flowing cabs could cruise the streets and pick up passengers anytime - if they were not too close to the cab stations. The private ones were owned by well-to-do citizens and high officials, operated by an employed "chauffeur", and the cabs were usually metallic and painted blue, not the usual wooden and green; an example is shown below:
Here is a photo showing a sea of pedicabs in front of the Presidential Palace in 1951; they seemed to be patiently waiting for the Labor Day public rally to end so they could pick up customers:
The switch from pedicabs to taxicabs was made possible when Yue-Loong began mass-producing passenger automobiles in Taiwan:
More accurately, YL imported and assembled parts made by Nissan in Japan, at least in the beginning. This model, the 1971 Green-bird 1300-cc sedan, translated from Japanese correctly, its name would have been the Blue-bird in Chinese. The Taiwanese pronunciation of blue-bird was something unmentionable, however. An alternative name was therefore chosen. Also, the taxicabs were usually painted in red and white, not yellow. Below shows taxicabs in action near the East Gate in Taipei:
By and large, pedicab runners were a hardy and reliable bunch and most of them worked in your neighborhood, rain or shine. The taxi age, on the other hand, has brought with it horror stories, such as refusal to travel short distances, questionable personal hygiene and appearances (wearing T-shirts, for example), and the occasional crimes against the passengers. Much has improved since. Cabbies these days are simply trying to make an honest living in the face of competition from private car ownership, public buses and MRTs.
All images are from http://taipics.com