TRISHAW riders in Penang are struggling with slow business these days with almost all depending on foreign tourists to make a living.
Charging RM50 per hour or a fixed rate for an all-day charter, the riders, who are mostly senior citizens, do not earn much in a day.
Azlan Ahmad, who has been a trishaw rider for over 40 years, said business had changed a lot since he started in his early 20s.
“During my early days, there were over 2,000 trishaws in Penang providing essential transport for passengers and cargo.
“Today, there are fewer than 100 riders left and we serve mostly tourists,” said Azlan, 70.
“I earn slightly over RM1,000 a month and while I can make a living, I cannot afford any luxuries.
“An hour’s work for RM50 can sustain me for two days.
“Sometimes, three or four days will go by without making a trip as I’m old now and need to take it easy,” said Azlan, who is a widower living alone.
Another trishaw rider, Khaw Hooi Beng, 68, started nine years ago after an accident injured both his legs and he could not continue in his previous job.
“I was a barge operator at the port in Butterworth.
“After the accident, I lost the job and later made a living as a trishaw rider in George Town and enjoyed good business then.
“Although the Covid-19 pandemic hit us hard, I survived and business is recovering.
“As my legs are weakened by the accident, I’m only able to make two to three trips daily, earning RM100 to RM150.
“Most of my customers are passengers from cruise ships,” said Khaw.
Azlan and Khaw were among 20 trishaw riders who received food packets and an umbrella each in front of Cititel Penang in Penang Road.
The hotel’s sales director Quah Lin Lin said, “The giveaway is our corporate social responsibility initiative.
“Each set is worth RM50 and we hope this gesture will help alleviate the riders’ burden and help them earn a living.”