Who would be a taxi driver in Beijing? Certainly not the men, and a few women, who ply the far older and more environmentally sound trade of transporting people around central Beijing in rickshaws, or pedicabs. Known as huangbao chefu, they congregate in Beijing's tourist hotspots like Houhai, Qianmen and Ritan Park. Despite having to pedal in the summer heat, few would swap their three-wheeled contraptions for one of Beijing's shiny new yellow and green taxis. 'I don't want to be a taxi driver,' says Zhang Zhongshan, a 34 year-old from Hebei province who's been a huangbao chefu for four years. 'You have to hire the taxi, and that costs about 5,000 yuan a month. You have to make that much money each month before you start earning.' Instead, Mr Zhang rents his rickshaw for 1,200 yuan a month from one of the eight companies that control the trade in Beijing. On a good day, he can make 300 yuan. Parked up in a shady side street while waiting for his next customer, Mr Zhang shrugs off questions about the physical toll of pedalling through the streets for hours at a time. 'I don't find it tiring any more. I've grown accustomed to the work.' Nor does he consider himself just a driver. 'I'm not only a huangbao chefu, I'm a guide as well. I tell the people about the history of the hutong,' he says. With more and more visitors descending on Beijing as the 2008 Summer Olympics approaches, these are boom times for Mr Zhang and his co-workers. 'It used to be just foreign tourists, but now more and more Chinese are using them,' he said. 'We get a lot of people from Guangdong.' A ride around Houhai costs 60 yuan for two people; a three-hour hutong tour, 180 yuan. Huangbao chefu also steer tourists in the direction of tea houses, restaurants and shops that pay them a commission. The huangbao chefu were some of the earliest Chinese capitalists. They disappeared for much of the Mao era, then made a comeback after the Cultural Revolution. With taxis virtually unknown in Beijing in the late 1970s, budding entrepreneurs started converting ordinary three-wheeled carts into primitive rickshaws. Now, there are so many that Beijing's municipal government is considering cutting their numbers for the 2008 Games. Six-hundred of them operate in the Houhai area alone, jamming the already overcrowded narrow lanes. 'The number might be reduced by half because there are too many traffic jams,' says Mr Zhang. 'I'm not happy about that because I might lose my job.' But even among Beijing's disgruntled taxi drivers - who have recently been hit with the double whammy of higher fares and rising fuel costs - many say that the life of a huangbao chefu still seems like a better option.