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Alternatives to New York’s Soon-To-Be-Banned Central Park Horse Carriages

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New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, often bemoans a “tale of two cities”—one rich, one poor. But lately he has been lamenting a different kind of tail—the ones on the horses that for decades have pulled the iconic tourist carriages through Central Park. De Blasio plans to ban the horse-drawn hansoms because, like many New Yorkers, he thinks the horses are undernourished, mistreated, and overworked, not unlike your typical Manhattan freelance fact-checker. And so, to keep the tourists coming back to the Big Apple, here are my alternatives to the Central Park horse-drawn carriages.

Electric Tin Lizzie

There’s a certain political poetry in shifting from horse-drawn carriages to horseless carriages, so this alternative may have the upper hand in de Blasio's deliberations. But frankly, these faux-antique autos, which have already been proposed, are more suited to a ride up Disneyland’s Main Street than past the Wollman Ice Skating Rink.

Upside: Environmentally sensitive.

Downside: Lame.


Tuk-Tuk 


Popular in India, Thailand, and elsewhere in Asia, these three-wheeled death-traps, sometimes called auto-rickshaws and often driven by carefree maniacs, are fun, sprightly, and cheap—ideal for ripping past the Central Park Zoo to avoid a clogged Fifth Avenue.

Upside: Colorful.

Downside: Why bother when you can already get the same effect from the average taxi?

Beer-Bar Bicycle


You can find these wonderful contraptions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and even Houston. A dozen beer drinkers face each other across a bike-mounted bar and pedal as they imbibe. A (hopefully) sober driver steers the bike’s handlebars and stops to retrieve inebriated passengers who’ve fallen off.

Upside: Well, you get to drink beer as you go.

Downside: Mayor de Blasio was probably thinking of something more tasteful than Animal House on wheels.

Habal-Habal


Depending on your personal risk tolerance, you can either thank or blame the Philippines for these modified motorcycles. Imagine 8-10 passengers crammed together and delicately balanced on a 20-year-old 125cc Kawasaki with muffler issues. Now you get the picture. How do you survive a habal-habal ride? Pray.

Upside: Getting to know your fellow riders, very up-close and personal.

Downside: Getting to know your fellow riders, very up-close and personal.
 
Shweeb Monorail

Riders squeeze into plastic tubes hanging from a mini-monorail track and pedal as they would a bicycle.

Upside: No carbon footprint, thanks to foot power.

Downside: You’re on a track, so no detours possible. Plus, claustrophobes (who, me?) will fight off a panic attack and then pass out before reaching their destination.
 
Personal Hovercraft

Float like a butterfly…Well, skid like a really fast caterpillar, more like it. OK, they’re not perfect yet, but one-man hovercraft are a reality, just right for bounding across Central Park’s Sheep Meadow on a lazy summer evening.

Upside: Coolness factor.

Downside: No brakes.
 
Jinrikshaw

These human-powered rickshaws are still in use in the geisha districts of Kyoto and Tokyo, but more as a tourist novelty than a practical mode of transportation—you know, sort of like, well, Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages. Do-gooders will likely balk at what they perceive as a cruel and inhumane practice. On the other hand, rickshaw-pullers in Japan routinely earn around $15 for a 10-minute ride, which comes out to…let’s see…add the five…carry the one…about a thousand dollars an hour! Hey, where do we sign up?

Mark OrwollMark Orwoll is International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow @orwoll on Twitter or Like him on Facebook.

Photo credit: Lee Foster / Alamy

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