Mototaxis, golfitaxis, bicitaxis and other forms of irregular and fragile mobility devices serve a key role in moving people and their goods across CDMX’s small towns inside large delegations. These informal mobility devices enable critical mobility for women, the elderly and people with disabilities, allowing them to connect daily with community assets, such as parks, clinics and markets. Widespread use of low or zero-emissions affordable devices is positive as they combat pollution, road congestion and financial scarcity. It is important that passengers are able to rely on safe, comfortable and disability accessible devices, which is often not the case today.
We seek to design an effective sustainable solution for the people who rely on these irregular devices. A sociological survey was developed and conducted to test demographic data during the week of October 13, 2019 in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. Information from more than two hundred people was sought on questions such as age, cellphone ownership, trust in the safety of irregular mobility devices, and the viability of using an app to request any of these services.
Our results confirmed women of working age are heavy users of bicitaxis. Women disagreed with the idea of using an app, considering it highly impractical because it would force them to own a smartphone, pay extra for data, and wait for a device to come to them, which would be a slower and pricier process than simply flagging one down on the street as they now do. While men stated they thought bicitaxis were safe and an app would be useful, they also stated they do not use those devices, so their views were not based on a wealth of personal experiences. In terms of current design drawbacks, respondents said they felt most unprotected from rain and pollution. User risk perception highlighted road safety as a primary concern, followed by accidents, robbery or sexual assault. Despite not being part of the survey, nearly a third of respondents also mentioned drivers being under influence of drugs and drivers being untrained. Considering these answers were not sought yet mentioned so frequently, we expect that these threats occur regularly.
We believe technology and systems to increase safety and comfort should be built into future e-bicitaxis and supporting programs. However, our survey results indicate that relying on our passengers to have mobile data or use smartphones is not viable since a lot of current users, especially women, do not see value in using them to book these mobility devices.
Questions of ecological, social and financial sustainability extend beyond just passengers’ complex needs. As Luis David Berrones-Sanz noted in his research on motorcycle taxi drivers in Tláhuac, there has been scant research on these devices, and their corrosive effect on drivers’ health and wellbeing. Berrones-Sanz found that drivers work long hours, 11 to 12 on average, without healthcare, all the while being exposed to excessive pollution, violence, noise and musculoskeletal problems. Our research found the current system is supported by shop owners who sell carriages and parts as well as metalsmiths who build and cover the carriages; these workers‘ dependents rely on their income. This system is not ecologically, socially and financially sustainable and needs positive change.
In June 2019, The CDMX Government released their “Plan de Reducción de Emisiones del Sector Movilidad.” As part of their plan affecting mototaxis, the City has committed to convert 100% of mototaxis to electric power by 2024, and offer funding to ease this transformation. If a fleet of sustainable e-assisted trikes is to replace the current mass of irregular vehicles, it is critical this transition does not disenfranchise the drivers, shopkeepers, workmen and their dependents in the process.
Our team is well aware that the physics of moving people and goods on a cycle-like vehicle requires intensive engineering. Weight distribution, automotive-style suspension systems, and durable electric motors and drivetrain technology are crucial to making these vehicles operate safely. Evidence of this can be found in the development of electric-assist mobility devices on the market today from companies such as Velove, GLEAM, Urban Arrow, Rytle, Van Raam, Xcyc, and others. Their devices engineered for daily, heavy-duty cargo movement with ease of serviceability took several years of development. Full development of a cargo device catered to this unique market, would require capital, engineering, and local data that exceeds our set pilot budget and timeframe. Instead, we are focused on employing proven devices to collect detailed demographic, use and maintenance data we can use in future stages of development.
Our Ecotrixi CDMX! pilot will aid an equitable transformation by showcasing how an affordable and robust e-assist bicitaxi design supported by regulations and incentives can enable CDMX’s planned 100% conversion to electric power by 2024, with the full support of drivers, passengers and their communities. In addition, the pilot will consider how simple design, system and policy changes can prevent violence, and provide accessible local mobility for people with unique mobility needs and challenges.