As many as 136 cyclo drivers participated in a race in Phnom Penh yesterday, an event held to promote the traditional form of transport and improve the livelihoods of drivers.
Held by the Cyclo Conservation Association, the first place winner of the race received $100, while second and third place drivers received $80 and $60 respectively.
Im Sambath, executive director of CCA, noted that most cyclo drivers are old and that the use of the vehicle is disappearing.
“The race also aims to encourage the conservation of cyclos in the city,” Mr Sambath said.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that yesterday was the third time the city had held a cyclo racing event, with previous races held in 1993 and 1995.
She said that the association cooperated with Cyclo Conservation Association on the racing event yesterday in order to promote the vehicle to the tourism industry.
“We want to introduce cyclos as a traditional Khmer vehicle to tourists through the racing event, as well as by suggesting to tourist agencies to include cyclo rides for city sightseeing in tourism pocketbooks,” Ms Sivlin said.
Tourism Minister Thong Khuon said that the race aimed to attract public interest in cyclos.
“We must prepare cyclos to a standard that would attract tourists to use it as a mode of transportation for sightseeing in the city,” Mr Khuon said.
Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng yesterday said that the cyclo has existed in Cambodia since French colonisation. However, he noted that cyclos have become less and less popular due to the rise of modern vehicles.
Mr Sreng said that the government created the Cyclo Foundation last year to help cyclo drivers face the impact of the falling popularity of cyclos on their livelihoods.
He said that the Cyclo Fundation was created in January 2018 and currently has 320 members, with the Prime Minister Hun Sen as its honourable chairman. The charitable body gives drivers a small allowance of 7,000 riels per day and offer free medical care at state hospitals.
“Before, cyclos were very popular in the city, but due to modern vehicles, cyclos have seen a fall, which is affecting the income of cyclo drivers and at the same time, we’re seeing the loss of a traditional Khmer vehicle,” Mr Sreng said.
Soum Sern, 50, a cyclo driver, said that he is very happy that the cyclo racing event was held.
He said that he has been working as a cyclo driver in the city for nearly 20 years, noting that most of his customers nowadays were locals who wanted to go to a nearby market and tourists who wanted to sightsee.
“Nowadays, they do not favour cyclos because there are a lot of tuk-tuks and Indian rickshaws,” Mr Sern said. “Most passengers are people who want to go to a market near their home or tourists who want to sightsee.”
Chan Narong, a race spectator, said that he brought his daughter to watch the cyclo race because it was a rare and interesting event to watch.
“I usually watch motorcycle racing, car racing or running. This is my first time seeing a cyclo race,” Mr Narong said. “I want my daughter to know the Khmer vehicle, which uses manpower to drive. It’s interesting to watch drivers try their best to go fast.”