“Taxi!” Have you ever heard that word screamed along the streets of a busy city? If you live in or have ever been to New York City, then the answer is definitely “Yes!” Taxis are a common sight in many major metropolitan areas.

Taxis — also called taxicabs or cabs — are vehicles with drivers you can hire to drive you to a destination for a fee. The name taxicab was a contraction of the translation of the French words for the same vehicles: “taximeter cabriolet.”

Taxis got started as horse-drawn carriages along the streets of London and Paris in the early 1600s. Today, many taxis are bright yellow sedans that people can easily find on busy streets. Not all taxis have four wheels, though! Some have three wheels, others have two and some have none at all!

One unique form of two- or three-wheel taxi is the rickshaw. There are several types of rickshaws. One of the most common is the cycle rickshaw, also called a bike taxi or pedicab.

Cycle rickshaws are tricycles designed to carry passengers behind a driver. Cycle rickshaws are used in many large cities around the world. They’re very common throughout Asia.

Another popular, older version of the rickshaw is the pulled rickshaw. These vehicles are two-wheeled carts — often made of bamboo — pulled by a human driver called a runner. These rickshaws usually carry one or two passengers.

The word “rickshaw” comes from the Japanese words meaning “human-powered vehicle.” Rickshaws got their start in Japan around 1868. They became popular because they were easier to use and faster in large cities than horse-drawn vehicles.

No one knows for sure who invented the rickshaw. Some people believe it was American blacksmith Albert Tolman or American missionary Jonathan Scobie. Others believe it was Tokyo restaurant owner Izumi Yosuke. Whoever invented the rickshaw, there were over 40,000 of them on the streets of Tokyo by 1872.

Humans aren’t the only engines for taxis, though. Hansom cabs are horse-drawn carriages that are still used today for quaint tours in New York City and other large cities around the world.

Some taxis don’t even operate on the ground, though. You can take a taxi on the water! For example, ferries and water buses provide public transportation across many different bodies of water. In some European cities, you can also take a gondola around the waterways of the city!

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    • Alright, our Wonder Friends in Mrs. D’s class are rockin’ and rollin’ today! we’re so impressed with your list of guesses… we can’t barely contain our excitement for tomorrow! :)

  1. We never knew there were so many different types of taxis. We were really interested in the pulled rickshaws. The runners must really be in good shape to pull people around the city all day!
    We are wondering if there are even more types of ‘taxis’. What about elephants and camels? Aren’t those used to transport people also?

    • We think you’d have to be VERY strong to pull those rickshaws all day long! We think you’re right, Wonder Friends in Ms. H’s 5th grade class! You’d have to be in good shape to run around the city all day long as people hop on and off!
      Also, thanks for adding to our Wonder! There are lots of other ways to get around, including horseback, elephants, camels and even donkey! We are glad to have such great Wonder Friends like you! :)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Most of us didn’t know there were taxi’s without 4 wheels. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about exploring the world, different countries, or mysterious places.

    thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • HOORAY, for learning new things today, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class! We Wonder if any of you have been transported in a taxi, rickshaw or water bus?! We can’t wait to discover what tomorrow will bring at Wonderopolis! :)

  3. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I knew not all taxis have 4 wheels. There were taxis that were just bikes pulling a miniature cart for people to sit in. I’ve never ridden in a taxi before. I live in the country. I also live in Canada, so, it’s not as busy as the U.S.A. I do have younger cousins that live in New York, so, they’ve probably been in a cab with their mom before.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s WONDER of the day.

    Your WONDERful friend,
    Caelah

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Caelah! We Wonder if you will be able to visit your cousins in New York– perhaps you can ride in a taxi when you are there! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– and we hope to see you soon! You’re a WONDERful friend, indeed! :)

    • We bet you do a LOT of walking, Macy! We Wonder if you will ride in a taxi cab in the future, or if you take a car or public transportation to get to and from school? :)

  4. I think that was interesting because I didn’t think people still used horse carriages. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be. I think it will be more interesting than today’s wonder. Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    • We bet it would be cool to travel by horse and buggy for a day– it would be a historical adventure, Emma! We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! Until then, have a Marvelous Monday, Emma! :)

  5. We like looking at the different types of taxicabs. Some of our friends have been in a taxi that has 4 wheels. Our friends from the Kongo have been on a taxi that had 1 wheel!

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about, Africa, Maine, California, MExico, India, or Tanzinia.

    • We’re excited to hear that our Wonder Friends in Ms. Bayko’s class have lots of different taxi cab experiences! We Wonder if the one-wheeled taxi looked like a unicyle?!

      Thanks for sharing your guesses for tomorrow’s geographical Wonder! :)

    • Maybe you’ll be able to hop in one in the future, Blakeleigh! Who knows… it might have four wheels… or maybe it will have two! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We had never heard of a rickshaw before. We learned something new today! We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a nice quiet location in the world or maybe things that are lost and found.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders.

    • How cool, our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class have learned something new today! It’s a great day to be a WONDERer! We can’t wait to go on the next adventure with you tomorrow… until then, have a marvelous Monday! :)

  7. Good afternoon Wonderopolis! We had a WONDERful time drawing pictures with today’s theme. We came up with lots of kinds of taxis that didn’t have wheels. All of them were yellow and had black and white patterns of squares on them, just like we saw on the boat picture you shared!

    Here are some things that we drew:

    Taxi Boats, Airplane Taxis, Submarine Taxis, and even a Bird Taxi!

    • We were so excited to see your AWESOME drawings on twitter today! We are so excited that you are WONDERing with us– great job using your imaginations today! We’ll see you soon, PB Kindergarteners! :)

    • Great question, Mrs. B’s Class! The taxi cab that was first documented in Paris, France was actually a horse-drawn carriage! We think it’s great that you put the clues from today’s Wonder together to determine where the first taxi ride took place! :)

    • We’re not sure about that, Cassie! Originally, the first taxi cabs were horse-drawn carriages… which were pulled by horses. We Wonder if you have seen a grouse (a group of birds) pull around a taxi before?! :)

  8. Wow I never thought people would actually use “people ridden rickshaw”. I’m WONDERingwhy do people actually do these things is it beacuase they want money, or is it because they’re nice. By the way zoe.d I love 1D too I LOVE THEIR SONGS!!!!!

    • A rickshaw is another form of transportation for many people, Wonder girl rocks! In some countries, taxi cabs don’t make sense– perhaps they have narrow roads where rickshaws are easier and more affordable to own! We’re happy that you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

  9. I once rode a taxi before, in Colombia, I was with my family going to my friend’s house, they let us stay in their house if we visit. Another time I was in Orlando for a family vacation to Universal, I found a bike taxi in a parking lot at McDonald’s. :) :D

    • WOW, how cool Carlos! We think your trips to Colombia sound awesome– how kind that your friends welcome their home to you! We bet the person riding the bike taxi in Orlando, Florida was in GREAT shape! It can be very hot in that area! :)

    • Great question, Trevor! As our Friends, PB Kindergarteners, mentioned above… there are water taxis! It’s a cool way to commute across the water! :)

    • We have lots of Wonder Friends– both guys and gals– who make up Wonderopolis! It’s a very fun place to play, learn and live, Lala! :)

  10. Hi I’m Luke from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I thought this wonder was intriguing because I thought there were only 4 wheeled taxis. I have ridden on a water taxi before so I did know that there were water taxis and I think it is very cool. I’m going to use all of this knowledge next time I visit a big city and flabbergast my parents.

    • Hey there, Luke2! We’re glad you have been WONDERing about taxis with us today– we think you’ll do great when you need one in the next big city you visit! :)

    • There are different modes of transportation all over the world, including New York! We bet you could find taxis of all shapes and sizes in different places, Bianca! :)

    • WOW, what a SUPER question, Trisha! We learned about water taxis, rickshaws, pull carts, taxi cabs… but we know there are a lot more! We bet you can do some WONDERing on your own to find out how many taxis there are in the world! Who knows… maybe you’ll invent a new taxi in the future! :)

    • Ali, we’re so glad you shared another cool taxi with us! We Wonder if you did some research about this auto, or if you have visited India and taken a ride in the auto? What an amazing adventure! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do all taxis have four wheels?
  • What is a rickshaw?
  • Can taxis operate on water?

Wonder Gallery

TaxiVimeo Video

Try It Out

Taxi! That’s the call that you wait to hear. Why? Because you’re a taxi driver!

Pretend that you’re a taxi driver in Wonderopolis. What kind of taxi would you drive? An automobile? A cycle rickshaw? A pulled rickshaw? A gondola? Or something more wild and WONDERful?

Use your imagination! What are the streets of Wonderopolis like? What kind of people—or creatures!—do you pick up? Where do you take them? How much do you charge? What’s the most interesting ride you’ve given lately?

Write a short story or draw a picture that tells your story as a Wonderopolis taxi driver. When you’re finished, share your story with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about — or see! — your taxi adventure!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Trade and Transportation in the United States lesson, children imagine what it would be like to operate a plane, train or truck along a trade route across the United States.

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