Your article at the collective
We at “The Women All Ride” collective want to represent the cycling world in all its diversity. Therefore we have not only initiated the category: ALL RIDE WITH…, but also want to share guest contributions and experiences of our readers. The topics are as varied and diverse as our community itself. From personal challenges, to social engagement, to educational and health topics related to cycling – your article at the collective shows the diversity and variety of cycling people!
The Zuffka – a rickshaw mobility project
Carola Pein is part of a special social project. She drives people with limited mobility around Stuttgart with the rickshaw Zuffka. In this guest article she reports about her experiences. But first a few words about Caro:
A short sentence about you:
I am 47 years old and live in Stuttgart with my small patchwork family. I work as a work supervisor in a creative workshop in a facility for the homeless.
Your way of cycling/ or, which bike do you prefer to ride?
My favourite bike is a colourful trekking bike, when I have to go further away I take my folding bike with me on the train, in winter I ride my mountain bike and when there is more to carry I ride a cargo bike.
What does cycling mean to you?
Riding a bike is independent and free mobility for me. I don’t get stuck in traffic jams, I don’t wait for a train, I can ride when and where I want.
In the discussion about traffic change and car-free city centres, old people and people with limited mobility must not be forgotten. For some people, even short distances to the next shop, the doctor, the hairdresser, or simply to the park are too far and not feasible on their own. Taxis often refuse such short distances because they are not profitable. A cycle rickshaw shortens the distances, can pick up at the door, drive to close to the destination and thus contributes to a self-determined social participation.
Zuffka, what is that?
The Zuffka – the Zuffenhausen rickshaw – is a cycle rickshaw that operates in the Stuttgart districts of Zuffenhausen, Stammheim, Rot, Freiberg and Zazenhausen. It runs from Monday to Friday and transports people with limited mobility for free, all others for a donation that is determined by themselves. The rickshaw covers a mobility radius of about 10 kilometres and works like a classic taxi. We come when called – if we are not occupied at the moment – or there are appointments that are made in advance.
This project was brought to life in 2019 by a handful of idealists, financed by donations from local shops, businesses and people, and runs under the Bürgerverein Zuffenhausen.
The people behind the Rickshaw Mobility Project
We are a team of 7 riders who all pedal voluntarily, all year round and in all weathers. In fact, there are hardly any days when the rickshaw is not running. Somehow we always manage to cover for each other when someone from the team is absent.
I joined the team about 1 ½ years ago and wouldn’t want to miss the Zuffka. It’s not only the fun of riding the rickshaw, it’s also the interactions with our customers, the reactions of passers-by and the deceleration of motorised traffic that make riding the rickshaw so special.
“If I had known how beautiful this was, I would have called earlier!”
Most of our clients are very old and no longer walk well. Many of them report that they had their doubts about taking up our offer at the beginning and that it cost them some effort to try it out. But most of them, once they have taken a ride, use the rickshaw again and again.
You regain a bit of freedom and self-determined action. Often the path to the destination is the arduous obstacle: high curbs, short green phases at pedestrian lights, parked and blocked pavements. Everyday walks become a strenuous effort. Of course, there are offers such as neighbourhood assistance, which, for example, takes care of shopping, but this restricts the free choice of shop, favourite baker or product selection. And social interaction is also eliminated. People get what they need, but still remain at home alone.
In the midst of life by rickshaw
The rickshaw enables them to actively participate in life. For example, simply getting out of their own four walls and coming to the nearest park on a sunny day to sit on a park bench for 2 hours. There you can watch children playing and talk to other people. The most important thing is that they don’t have to worry about whether they can make it back. They Self decide when they want to go where.
Our clients are very grateful for the offer. Although we ride for free, because we believe that mobility and social participation must be openly accessible to everyone, they donate generously or show us in other ways how important the rickshaw has become for them. For example, at Christmas, each from our team received a beautiful homemade Zuffka keychain from a customer who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. It must have taken him a lot of energy and effort to make it.
From human to human
The rickshaw not only has a positive effect on our customers, it also influences the immediate environment. Passers-by laugh and wave when we ride by, children are amazed and as soon as I stand somewhere and wait, I am in conversation with people. There is a lot of interest in the Zuffka, we get a lot of praise and encouragement, but also admiration that we dare to ride a rickshaw in the traffic.
Rickshaw cycling infrastructure and transport – a challenge
I experience traffic quite differently with the rickshaw than when I am cycling alone. Stuttgart is not necessarily known for its bicycle-friendliness due to two large automobile companies – one of which is based in Zuffenhausen. That and the cycling infrastructure, like almost everywhere, leaves a lot to be desired.
Since the rickshaw is wider than an ordinary (cargo) bike and I am also responsible for the safety of my passengers, it is even more important that cycle lanes or protected lanes are too narrow, stop abruptly or are blocked.
Due to Stuttgart’s topography, serious gradients also have to be overcome again and again, which is sometimes quite slow, despite e-motor assistance, especially with passengers or passengers. The impatience of motorised traffic is often clearly noticeable and dangerous overtaking manoeuvres are unfortunately part of every journey.
But there are also pleasant surprises. For example, it is usually the lorry or bus drivers inside who let me merge into the flowing traffic coming from a side street, which I perceive quite differently in my everyday cycling life when I am alone on my bike.
All in all
With our offer we want to make it possible to experience what citizen-friendly neighbourhood development should look like, how alternative forms of mobility can be used and how stronger social togetherness can put an end to the increasing isolation of many people.
Since I’ve been involved in this project, I often think to myself that every district, every neighbourhood and even every village should have its own rickshaw. The need is there, the offer would certainly be used everywhere. The rickshaw contributes to more self-determined participation for people who are limited in their mobility, it connects people and brings them together. On no other day of the week do I see so many happy, laughing and waving people as on my Zuffka afternoons.
- Text: Carola Pein
- Correction/ Layout: Juliane Schumacher
- Photos: Markus Vordermeier