Prepare for an invasion of tuk-tuks! Aa worker checks the roof on an electric Tuk-Tuk being prepared for export at the Denver eTuk factory in northeast Denver (AP photos)
Prepare for an invasion of tuk-tuks!
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They're found all over in Asia. They swarm the busy streets. This is especially true in the huge cities of Bangkok, New Delhi and Beijing.

They are called tuk-tuks.

Now, a company that manufactures the tuk-tuk aims to make progress in the United States.

What's a tuk-tuk? It's a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw. It has moved the masses for more than half a century in Asia.

The Tuk Tuk Factory is based in Holland's Amsterdam. It has signed a licensing agreement with Denver-based eTuk USA. The deal will allow the company to manufacture and sell an electric version of the vehicle. The Colorado company's founders hope the eco-friendly vehicles will become the next hip mode of transportation. The company wants to sell them to city dwellers and tourists across the country. These versions are a far cry from the loud, pollution-spewing versions. Those are common in Asia and South America.

It's too soon to know if Americans will embrace tuk-tuks.

Michael Fox is director of sales and marketing for eTuk USA. He says the company has been selling the vehicles across the country. They have gone to individuals. They have also gone to marketing companies and food vendors. The cost is between $16,950 and $25,000. The price depends on how each is customized.

The three partners' other company is called eTuk Denver. It has launched a call-and-demand shuttle service in downtown Denver. The company received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The commission regulates for-hire transportation services.

The service is the latest arrival into an increasingly crowded field of transportation options. It includes car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. It also includes pedicabs and golf-cart taxis.

Fox is banking on the tuk-tuk's open-air design. He hopes it will help it stand out.

Just look at a golf cart and look at a tuk-tuk, he says. "Which has more curb appeal?" he asked.

The tuk-tuk has faced some pushback. Complaints have come from a handful of cab companies and other shuttle operators. And tuk-tuks have raised concerns about the vehicles' safety.

Terry Bote is a utilities commission spokesman. Several cab and shuttle companies were successful in restricting the tuk-tuks, he said. Those restrictions include where they can operate and what types and how many vehicles can be used. And how many passengers each vehicle can carry.

The tuk-tuks operate mostly in a restricted downtown Denver area. They are banned from providing scheduled service to the nearby Broncos' football stadium. That is a lucrative destination for the competition.

But even with the restrictions, Fox said his service can complement Denver's bus and light rail systems.

He noted the "last-mile concept." It's a term that has been used by urban planners. It describes the difficulty of getting people from places like a railway station or a bus depot to their final destination.

The concept originally applied to suburban areas. It is also relevant when studying how people complete their trips in downtown areas, said Carolyn McAndrews. She is an assistant professor of design and planning. She teaches at the University of Colorado-Denver.

"Everybody has the last-mile problem. And they solve that problem by walking. Or we drive our cars," she said.

But McAndrews also said the market is ripe for new modes of transportation like tuk-tuks to close that gap.

She points to a 2012 study in New Jersey. It says "last-mile" shuttles are playing an increasingly important role. They help connect people and jobs to rail transit. That is especially true because of the decentralization of jobs and homes in most cities over the past few decades.

"To be competitive with cars, you have to make the point-to-point as convenient as possible," she said.

It seems like Colorado's legislature agrees.

Tuk-tuks are classified as motorcycles by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So drivers would have had to wear eye protection and get a motorcycle endorsement for the license. Anyone under 18 also would have had to wear a helmet.

But state Rep. Paul Rosenthal said such requirements for vehicles that travel short distances at low speeds don't make sense. He says that's especially true for a shuttle service.

"Say you have four kids. They would have to go find a helmet or have them on hand to do that," he said. "It becomes cumbersome."

On May 4, the legislature passed Rosenthal's bill. It would strip those requirements for 3-wheeled motorcycles with a windshield, seatbelts and a top speed of 25 mph. Each shuttle model has also undergone a standard commercial vehicle inspection. It must comply with federal safety standards.

Still, most states heavily regulate three-wheeled vehicles. That is because of what some say is the potential for serious accidents.

Sherry Williams chairs a committee of independent researchers on motorcycle safety. She said helmets should be required. She believes passengers need to be aware of the possible danger in the event of an accident, even at slow speeds.

"Most motorcycle accidents occur under 30 mph. And many of them are fatal. This is a serious issue," she said.

Critical thinking challenge: What characteristics of the tuk-tuk make it a good fit for crowded cities?

Assigned 9 times


COMMENTS (31)
  • John0724-YYCA
    6/02/2015 - 07:13 p.m.

    The new three wheeled rickshaw called tuk-tuk does not look safe in my opinion because it doesn't have doors and you never know if someone comes in front of the tuk-tuk you are riding in and could injure you, steal your stuff and the tuk-tuk, and even worse kill you and also if you're not wearing the seat belts and the tuk-tuk is going really fast you cold fall off the tuk-tuk since there is no doors so I think to improve the tuk-tuk they should add doors. Also the wheels don't look strong enough so if heavy people ride the tuk-tuk I think that it is going to break.

  • jalenh-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:40 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk? t's a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw

    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks? To get around in Asia.

    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented? to make progress in the United States, And to also help Huge amount of people in Asia.

    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks? No because we have taxis and buses.

    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem? The tuk-tuk might be a problem by how it does not a huge amount in the tuk-tuk. Or probably people might be in a hurry to get somewhere and the tuk-tuk might run out of gas.

  • cadarig-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk? A motorized vehicle used as a taxi in Asia.

    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks? To get around quicker.

    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented? Southeast Asia.

    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?No because people can get fall out and get hurt.

    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem? People can fall out if it because it have no doors.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

  • rayas-Pen
    6/03/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    1. What is a tuk-tuk?
    tuk -tuk is a 3 wheel motorized ricksaw.
    2. Why do people use tuk-tuks?
    people use Tuk-tuks to get around
    3. Where were the tuk-tuks invented?
    Asia and south America
    4. Do you think the United States will ever have tuk-tuks?
    yes,because the fonder wants to expand his invention to the united states
    5. How can the tuk-tuk be a problem?
    you would have to wear protection and get a motorcycle license.

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