Design: The Millennium Collection

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The Independent Culture
THE PICKUP Pedicab arrived on the roads of Islington in July, designed to ferry shoppers home from Sainsbury's, and already it is becoming an icon of local identity to match the horse-drawn caleches of Marrakech, the gondolas of Venice or the bicycle rickshaws of Peshawar. The locals have taken to it with a passion, if the queue outside the supermarket is anything to go by. Amid a jostle of plastic shopping bags, a stout barrister, an Amnesty International translator (plus two children), a flirtatious male couple, an estate agent (with mobile phone), and three kids from the Marquis Estate, plotted their routes on the colour-coded map of the borough. There was an excited bubble of chatter as we added up our small change for the pounds 2 or pounds 3.50 fare and kept a look out for the bright orange plastic hull of a returning Pedicab.

Once aboard, there is a deep tray at the back of the cab for shopping, a seat that can take two fat adults or three kids, a canopy in case of rain, frog-eyed headlights and a fit young man dressed in black driving the geared rickshaw in the front. I yearned for some silk banners, painted gargoyles and bells, but once on the road, my distaste for washable pressed plastic disappeared. You feel like a princess at Ascot and the temptation to wave is irresistible. The wind plucks tears from your eyes, as does the small glimmer of hope that the Pedicab could lead the way in reclaiming the streets of our city for life. The Pedicab, which had already proved itself miraculous by transforming a trip to the supermarket into a fairground ride, also began to glow in my eyes with the bright light of an environmental warrior.

Designed by Bob Dickson and built in Manchester, the Pedicab felt sturdy and secure but, with its elegant gear mechanisms and thin suspension rods, it also felt like a delicate flower. Will it ever blossom beyond the confines of Islington? Indeed, can it even survive here or will it, once the novelty wears off, be threatened by the assaults of callous drivers, like the horse-drawn drays of Young's Brewery? The experiment in London is entirely dependent on the patronage of the Sainsbury's supermarket in Islington. They have paid for the experimental fleet of Pedicabs, which are run by Jonathan Edwards, a passionate environmentalist who is also responsible for recruiting drivers. The machinery is here - but do we have the will to use it?

The Pickup is designed by The Seat of the Pants Co Ltd (0161-928 5575)

Barnaby Rogerson