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The politics of Austin’s rickshaws

When night falls on SXSW, festival attendees hide their badges and explode across the downtown area in search of food and (lots and lots and lots of) drink. Think Mardi Gras without the beads, or perhaps Hell opening up its bowels (mostly on Sixth Street.) Legions of conference goers who have spent their days listening to panels on copyright and the future of free porn abandon all semblance of nerd decorum and spend their remaining conscious hours frantically trying to force their way into dozens of overcrowded private party-hosting venues.

And everywhere, the roaring drunk are ferried across town by chariot.

Wait, no, I mean pedicab.

It's old news to veteran SXSWers, but immediately striking to anyone new to town. Bicycle-powered cabs are a fixture downtown. 24 different companies operate pedicabs. As of last summer, reports the Austin Monthly, there were 341 permitted cabs and 955 authorized drivers. There's even a company called "Metro Rickshaw."

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