A relatively recent phenomena, rickshaws were first introduced to Łódź in 1993 and today you’ll find over a hundred pedalling breathlessly up and down ulica Piotrkowska. Most will operate on a fixed fee basis – any journey, whether it be from one end of the 4km street to the other, or just a short one minute trip, will cost 4zł (6zł for two people), though that will not stop enterprising drivers from trying to take advantage of foreign accents. To save on embarrassing situations it’s recommended to agree on a price before hopping on board. Rickshaws are permitted to stray off the main street, Piotrkowska, and can be driven anywhere where a normal bicycle is permitted. Do be warned though that drivers will often use straying off centre as an excuse to jack the fare right up – we’ve heard of horror stories of people being charged 50zł to reach the Ibis Hotel, while we were fleeced of 30zł to be taken to the Manufaktura complex.
A couple of firms dominate the trade, with Riksza being the largest with its fleet of 31 carriers (including 25 covered cabs specially equipped for winter duties). If you’re looking to make a quick buck then there’s nothing stopping you from having a crack at the rickshaw industry yourself – no special license is necessary, though you should note that city officials do occasionally inspect the bikes. Although we’re promised you can find rickshaws that have been adapted to hold wheelchairs we can categorically state we have never seen such a thing.
Ranging from rusty-looking contraptions to streamlined efforts with roofs, rickshaws present the fastest and most economic way of tearing down Piotrkowska and are as much favoured by locals as they are by gleeful looking tourists. Driven by everyone from super-fit young brutes to knackered old barflies, you’ll find rickshaws operating throughout the year no matter how fierce the weather may be. Pedestrians should note that many of these drivers have a kamikaze attitude towards their job; if you hear a bicycle bell tinkling close by jump onto the nearest curb or else find your limbs tangled in the spokes of a rickshaw.