The three-wheeled motorcycle may become a regular feature of Cairo traffic
CAIRO: Is it a motorcycle? Is it a car? No, it’s a Tok Tok. It’s a motorcycle with three wheels and a cabin for passengers. About two or three people can squeeze in somewhat comfortably and it is one of the latest means of transport to be burning rubber across the city. It may look awkward, but it’s quite functional.
For Cairo’s narrow streets and alleyways, the Tok Tok is very practical. Its small size lets it maneuver through these streets with ease and the fares are ideal for low-income commuters who live in these densely populated roads which restricted access to most vehicles.
Though few sightings have been made in Cairo, the Tok Tok has been in Egypt for some time. In Abu Hamad city in Al-Sharqiyya, for example, the Tok Tok first appeared on the scene as a private means of transportation. Somewhere along the line, someone with a keen sense of business saw the motorized tricycle as a way to turn a nice profit.
From that moment on, the Tok Tok began to appear in nearby cities as a way for drivers to earn money. In Seres El-Layan in the governorate of Al-Menufiya the Tok Tok became a common mode of transportation for its small number of residents, much to the amusement of visitors who viewed it as an entertaining joyride.
Overnight it appears, the Tok Tok has arrived in Cairo. Their numbers seem to be growing at such a rapid rate that we will quickly get used to seeing them weaving at top speeds through traffic.
But there s a catch. The traffic laws, it seems, do not include the Tok Tok in its vehicle classifications. It s not a car, because it doesn t have four wheels; and it s not technically a motorcycle because it has more than two wheels. Moreover, the traffic departments refuse to license it. Some organizations have even gone as far as to fabricate the licenses.
This refusal isn t without justification. The structure of the Tok Tok isn’t sturdy enough to meet safety standards and the excessive speed at which they drive makes them accident-prone.
Some governorates have been blocking the legalization and local councils have held lengthy meetings during which some members have called for an outright ban.
The Tok Tok owners, on the other hand, are confounded. If they are unsafe, then why does the government allow them to be imported and offer duty exemptions? Why are they sold in government-owned stores like Omar Effendi (which was sold to the private sector only recently)?
The drivers rely on these unorthodox vehicles as a lucrative source of income and employment as they have few other opportunities.
Some traffic officials believe that the Tok Tok is a by-product of the crowded streets and the narrow alleys in certain residential areas around the country. Also, compared to taxis, Tok Tok fares are more affordable.
The solution lies with the People s Assembly, which will discuss the issue during this parliamentary session at the recommendation of the Ministry of Interior.
New legislation could ensure that Tok Toks meet government safety standards, be licensed as motorcycle rentals, and that the drivers carry the appropriate license.
Until then – and only if – the traffic licensing laws are amended, the traffic police are obliged to apprehend illegal Tok Tok drivers.