7 min read

This Is What It's Like To Ride Around In NYC's New Horseless Carriage

<p>Melissa Cronin/The Dodo</p>

Riding through the streets of Manhattan with the wind in your hair and the skyscrapers rising around you can be a pretty gratifying experience. A massive, green, turn-of-the-century antique car is aiming to make that ride even better.

The new electric "e-carriage" that could replace New York's horse carriages was unveiled Wednesday at New York's Beacon Theater. Riding in the vintage nine-seater, which comes complete with phone chargers, seat warmers, luggage space and two novelty horns, is like sitting in a cross between a go-kart and a Ford Model-T. Old, respectable but undeniably kitsch and goofy at the same time.

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

Chrissie Hynde, leader of the band "The Pretenders" was on site for the unveiling. The singer, who once got married in a NYC hansom cab, is now an animal rights activist and opposes the city's carriage horse industry.

"The eCarriage will mean New Yorkers will no longer have to step in manure or worry about a spooked horse smashing into a cab," says Hynde.

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

Assembly member Linda Rosenthal was also at the unveiling.

"I think these should replace the carriage horses," she said, gesturing to the antique vehicle.

The carriage was designed by a coach-building company called The Creative Workshop to mimic a turn-of-the-century vehicle. NYCLASS, an organization that's been campaigning to get the carriage horses off the streets, commissioned the vehicle to provide an alternative to the horses, which they say are suffering in the busy city streets.

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

The industry has been in turmoil recently, after allegations that horses - and people - have been getting hurt. Just last week, NYPD records revealed 25 unreported incidents involving horse carriages, nearly a dozen of which involved alleged hit-and-runs.

Rose McCoy, a 13-year-old actress well-known for jumping the barrier at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to protest SeaWorld's float last year, was also there to support the new e-carriage. She pointed out that the vehicle has several huge advantages over the horse carriages.

"First of all, of course it's better for the horses because they won't be suffering," McCoy told The Dodo. "As well, it's safer for humans and better for the environment. Horse carriages cause traffic - a major source of carbon emissions. Also, it'll smell better than manure."

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

The pushback from drivers has been strong. Drivers argue that the horses are well-cared for, and that accidents and incidents happen at a much lower rate than other forms of transportation in the city.

When the e-carriage passed horse carriage drivers by the entrance to Central Park, cries of "Get out of here!" could be heard ringing across Columbus Circle. Right before, Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, reported witnessing one horse carriage making an illegal U-turn across traffic, and another having a close call with a taxi's mirror.

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

"We were just driving down Central Park South and in a period of 15 seconds, we saw two near-accidents," Feldman told The Dodo from the passenger's seat of the e-carriage. "That shouldn't be happening in 2014. "If they really care about the animals, they've got to think long and hard about what's best for them."

Despite their protests, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised last April that action will be taken to get the horses off the streets by the end of the year. And it's possible that a big green antique will take their place.

(Melissa Cronin, The Dodo)

Correction: This story previously included a quote by Chrissie Hynde which said that horse carriages were banned in London, Paris and Beijing. Officials in London and Paris barred carriage horses from busy city centers; they did not ban them from the entire cities. Beijing banned all animals from city streets 20 years ago.

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