Prepare for an invasion of tuk-tuks!
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!
Lexile: 890L

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They're found all over in Asia and they swarm the bustling streets of Bangkok, New Delhi and Beijing.

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. But Michael Fox, director of sales and marketing for eTuk USA, says the company has been selling the vehicles across the country. They have gone to individuals, 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, eTuk Denver, launched a call-and-demand shuttle service in downtown Denver. They received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The commission regulates for-hire transportation services.

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

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

"When you look at a golf cart and you look at a tuk-tuk, which has more curb appeal?" he asked.

But like car-sharing services, the tuk-tuk has faced some pushback from a handful of cab companies and other shuttle operators. It has also raised concerns about the vehicles' safety.

Terry Bote, a utilities commission spokesman, said several cab and shuttle companies were successful in restricting the tuk-tuks. Those restrictions include where they can operate, 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 area. They are banned from providing scheduled service to the nearby Broncos' football stadium. It 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 to describe 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 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.

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 in connecting 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?

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Assigned 31 times

  • Steve0620-yyca
    6/01/2015 - 07:34 p.m.

    I never knew what a tuk-tuk was until now. I now know that it is a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw. Basically it is a small version of a car with three wheels. It costs the same amount that some cars do which is sixteen thousand to twenty-five thousand dollars. The cost depends on how it is made and designed. I think that it would be a cool and fun experience to ride around in a tuk-tuk. Now they are making the tuk-tuk an electrical vehicle. I am not sure if it is necessary for you to wear a helmet while riding it. The tuk-tuk is slow and doesn't go half the speed of a car going sixty-four miles. Some people say that a tuk-tuk is similar to a motorcycle and that there have been injuries of a motorcycle going thirty miles per hour. I think that it is cool for a company to make a new vehicle.

  • ChrisN0
    6/02/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    These Tuk-Tuks are something you don't see any day (in less you are in Asia), these are a type of transportation that is going to be electric powered.

  • RaelinaH35
    6/02/2015 - 08:56 a.m.

    I want to drive a tuk-tuk. It looks fun. I wish there were cars for kids so we could drive to places. They should have that. That would be fun.

  • Madisonm157
    6/02/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    I know they're trying to help the environment and such. But will be a new hip mode of transportation. No People would be rather driving in their new fancy smart cars. But I think it would be good for people to use this.

  • s.s2001sing
    6/02/2015 - 09:04 a.m.

    These tuck tuck inventions are very cool...I would defiantly ride in one of those. It is very expensive though; $16,950 and $25,000...that's a lot! Riding in a 3 wheel vehicle is interesting and unique, so it is very attractive. It is very good though that there are strict rules for the vehicle though because it is kind of new to the United States and it's kind of a unique way to ride and safety goes along with it; so no one would get hurt riding but they would also have a good time.

  • kb2001basketball
    6/02/2015 - 01:11 p.m.

    When I don't have my phone or when my phone is dead I get anxiety because I feel as if someone texted me and I missed the text or something is on social media that I missed.

  • Amare'C1503
    6/02/2015 - 02:56 p.m.

    The Tuck-Tuck sounds like a amazing way to travel since it's going to be electric that means there will be no harmful gasses polluting the earth

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    6/02/2015 - 04:58 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for the three-wheeled tuk-tuks to become the famous time to have around, but I think that the tuk-tuk is good for crowded cities which I think that they all used gasoline from the gas station but the tuk-tuk just only runs on electricity. Well if people are making tuk-tuks in crowded cities, I think that it is good for crowded cities because they only run on electricity.

  • sethwebb99
    6/02/2015 - 10:29 p.m.

    Some good characteristics that tuk-tuk's have are for crowded cities are they are small. They are also very maneuverable and agile witch is good for tight city streets. Another good thing is they have three wheels witch takes up less space on roads. I think it's dumb we have to where helmets in them in most states but oh well. I think they are a great idea.

  • Nikolas-Par
    6/03/2015 - 08:08 a.m.

    I like the name tuk-tuk, also it's cool you can drive it with out a helmet at 25 mph. I wonder what it would be like to drive one of those.

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