1. INTRODUCTION: Working Bicycles, Tricycles and Hand-carts

Working Bicycles, Tricycles and Hand-carts

The industrial tricycle was developed in England in the 1870s. It was commonly used by grocers, bakers, druggists and other tradesmen. In 1939 in London, there were 4,000 ice cream tricycles. The commercial version is still used all over the world, but especially in Asia where they can carry loads of up to 1,000 pounds.



Bhuj, Gujarat, 1997


I lived for many years in India and Nepal, and have traveled extensively throughout poor countries of the world. Bicycles – as well as tricycles and handcarts – may still be seen everywhere providing mobile services, both in the city and the countryside.

In India, trucks or trains will deliver goods long-distance. Small commercials and three-wheeled auto-rickshaws are used if you can afford to pay a bit more for a faster service. The pushcarts and pedal goods-carriers are at the bottom of the league for local deliveries.


Observing pedal-powered working vehicles in the 3rd world provides a fascinating insight into the history of 1st world countries. We became industrialized so fast that unmotorized goods vehicles were superseded at a greater velocity, and are now seen rarely.

In the ‘real world’ unmotorized commercials are still part of everyday life. Compare the 3-wheel catering handcarts in Bakhtapur, Nepal above (photographed in 2002), with the milkman and baker pictured below with handcart and tricycle goods-carrier respectively, in Hendon, north London, at the turn of the twentieth century.



The tricycle transporter with a broken chain (below, photographed in Madras) provides a bed for the night.



A working bicycle need even not be what we now think of as a ‘tradesman’s bike.’ Bicycles in India are essentially our old 1950’s Raleighs, Hercules and BSA’s. They need to be of sturdy design as many roads are what we’d describe as ‘off-road.’ So any bicycle may be used for transporting goods, such as this chicken-carrier photographed below in Pondicherry:



The trikes and their riders at the stand pictured below, in Madras, are waiting for anyone who needs goods transporting.



Here’s another goods-carrying configuration, photographed in north Sumatra, Indonesia, in March, 1995:



I did a road-trip from Gambia to Dakar, Senegal a few years ago. Not many examples of cycle goods-carriers where I went, but I did see a lot of bakery handcarts in Dakar, and tracked them down to their depot:



Rather than simply collate information that’s already to be found on the internet, I’ve tried on this website to provide different information, photos and perspectives. I hope it inspires you to renew your interest in vintage vehicles, and particularly unmotorized goods-carriers.

Also, if you collect old vehicles yourself, why not learn some basic computer and internet skills so you can upload pictures of your own collection for others to share and enjoy…

Published on January 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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