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The Passenger-Propelled Rickshaw
Inhabitants of Delhi rediscover their cooperative impulses with STEPHAN KÖPERL and SYLVIA WINKLER’s unusual people-carrying trike
India’s streets are getting busier. An emerging economy with a population of some 1.1 billion and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, wealthier Indians are increasingly turning to motor cars for their personal transport, increasing air pollution and the pressure on transport infrastructure. Meanwhile, India also has the largest concentration of people living below the international poverty line ($1.25 a day).
Into this mix, enter Germany-based artists Stephan Köperl and Sylvia Winkler and their innovative passenger-propelled rickshaw: the ‘PPR experience’. Working in collaboration with the Indian organisation KHOJ International Artists Association, they introduced residents of Delhi to their strange rickshaw. In PPR, the ‘driver’ still has to steer, but the rickshaw is powered by the pedalling of those seated behind – a challenge to the usual divide between rickshaw-wala and customer.
As Stephan puts it, ‘its non-heirarchical; there’s the passenger & the driver, and they have to cooperate. So one cannot go along without the other. By sharing the driver’s perspective, the PPR experience redefines your relation with your city and makes you more empathetic.’ Reception was rapturous: the rickshaw is healthy, eco-friendly, non-heirarchical and good for the whole family, ‘the Mercedes of Rickshaw’, as one Delhi resident described it. Stephan and Sylvia believe that public art should involve the people it is meant to be for, and to that end PPR even took part in a ‘manifestation of Delhi Rickshaw Pullers’; a demonstration calling for a more cycle-friendly Delhi.
PPR is one of several projects by the artists aiming to create new contexts by modifying an initial situation, allowing people to re-evaluate their relationships with other people and their environment. The ‘discounter-carousel’ was another: take a car-park surrounded by five discount supermarkets and introduce some traditional playground equipment with a twist – it is composed of trolleys!
Sylvia and Stephan are currently working on a second unusual tricycle with a pedal-powered monitor and sound-system. We look forward to seeing more ground-breaking cycle based interventions from them in the future!