Rickshaw tragedy: 'Questions must be asked about safety'

THERE are many unanswered questions about what caused the accident last weekend which tragically killed rickshaw taxi passenger Christopher O'Kane.

It happened in the early hours of the morning, after the off-duty soldier had been celebrating his birthday, but we don't know if alcohol was a factor.

There were early suggestions that he may have jumped out of the vehicle while it was still moving. Again, we cannot be sure if this happened – and his aunt says he simply lost his balance and fell.

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But one thing that is clear is that serious questions have to be asked about the safety of rickshaws, which have proliferated in the last decade, catering mostly to revellers in the pubs and clubs around the Grassmarket.

The operators of these pedal- powered taxis say – with some justification – that their slow pace makes them safer than most other means of transportation.

The only other significant accident which has hit the headlines was when Irish student Imelda Hogan almost choked to death when her scarf became caught in the wheels of a rickshaw in October 2001.

Yet this record doesn't include minor bumps and injuries, and it doesn't even begin to acknowledge the risks from these slow-moving and silent vehicles as cars try to overtake them and pedestrians try to dodge them.

The rickshaws seemed like a great idea when they were introduced – no pollution, an ability to nip in and out of roads hit by the late-night car "curfew", and the fact that they were a fun attraction for visitors and locals alike.

Yet it cannot be right that all anyone needs to have one of these vehicles on busy roads is the same licence required to sell paintings on the Royal Mile.

So the News welcomes the review that will be carried out into how the rickshaws operate. Those who run them need to prove that there's a place for them on our city's streets at all.

Some closing lines

WHO would have thought it? Sir Sean Connery, the first and most macho celluloid 007 penned poems in his youth.

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So, at least, it would appear from an extract from a guest house visitors' book which has found its way on to eBay. To which we can only say:

There once was an actor – not a ham,

Whose future Bond would be the epitome of calm.

One night spent in Leeds,

Was marked with poetic deeds,

All signed with a flourish by Big Tam.