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Page added on March 27, 2015

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Cargo Bikes Are the Perfect Mode of Transportation


With Americans driving less and more cities encouraging people to bike, the humble cargo bike has quietly gained traction in the U.S. Parents are pedaling their kids to school in front-loading “bakfiets” (or “box bike” in Dutch), and food vendors are zipping through traffic to deliver coffee and other goodies.


Cargo bikes are like eco-friendly SUVs for many families. Photo Credit: Butchers & Bicycles
Cargo bikes are like eco-friendly SUVs for many families. Photo Credit: Butchers & Bicycles


And while cargo bikes provide all the benefits of traditional bikes (reducing pollution, saving money, promoting health), cargo bikes have many pluses that typical two-wheelers don’t, including …

1. They (literally) move people

Think of them as pollution-free minivans that can carry much more than groceries. These guys can haul quite the load. Two-wheeled models can have a 400 pound load capacity and three-wheeled models can have a 500 pound load capacity, meaning there’s certainly room for extra riders. So throw in a toddler or two, or even take a date out for a spin as Bike Calgary vice president Dale Calkins did:

And, yes, you can also transport pets.

2. They are incredibly customizable

The Atlantic’s CityLab recently featured this solar-powered beauty from from Durham, N.C.-based Organic Transit. Their appropriately named ELF (“Electric, Light and Fun”) bike, can go up to 30 miles per hour and comes with headlights, turn signals, a roof and plenty of cargo space. You’d think with all this hardware you’d need some kind of a license, but since it’s legally a bike, ELF cyclers can peddle on bike paths or lanes and in any weather, the publication noted.

Organic Transit boasts that if their ELF is used in place of a car, it could prevent up to six tons of CO2 from spewing into the atmosphere each year. “There is nothing more polluting than driving our cars each day,” company founder Rob Cotter said. “As individuals, we are limited as to what we can effectively implement, but we can change how we behave. Getting out of your car and using your body along with a solar assist is the most powerful thing you can do.”

The design possibilities are endless. Creative minds are transforming cargo bikes from something very practical and utilitarian into versatile art. Check out this rocket cargo bike from a London bike show …

… as well as this whimsical home-built bakfiet that its young riders surely love.

And while the idea of riding such a lumbering bike might make some quads tremble, this three-wheeled ride from Butchers & Bicycles can whip around turns with the speed and agility of standard cruisers.

3. Food on the go, minus the fumes

Speaking of customizable, we recently took a look at the booming food bike craze, detailing how on-the-go kitchens are selling everything from popsicles to grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, food bikes are vulnerable to erratic weather, but at the same time, because they don’t rely on gas, food bikes are of course free from harmful emissions and pollutants. In fact, for every one mile pedaled rather than driven, about one pound of CO2 is saved.

Another advantage to vendors? Cargo bikes are also immune to road congestion and can park right outside of buildings for efficient delivery. As Charlie Wicker of Trailhead Coffee Roasters in Portland told NPR, “On a bike, you’re basically impervious to traffic jams. I can calculate my delivery time down to the minute.”


Charlie Wicker of Trailhead Coffee Roasters makes all of his deliveries within the 6-mile radius of Portland, Oregon on one of his custom-built cargo bikes. Photo credit: John Lee / Trailhead Coffee Roasters


4. It’s another encouragement to ditch the car

National trends indicate a decline in driving thanks in part to the proliferation of transportation apps, vehicle and bike sharing programs, and cargo bikes adding to the growing list of green-transport options. As far as cost goes, cargo bikes range between $1,000 and $5,000. However, there are cheaper models from China that can be found on the market, as cargo bike owners Chris Bruntlett and Melissa Bruntlett noted on Grist. But considering how much you’d save on fuel, maintenance, taxes and insurance, the investment is really a drop in the bucket. The writers also suggested checking out peer-to-peer bike sharing site to see if someone near you is renting out their cargo bike. Bike-friendly cities are also making it easier to own and park a relatively lumbering ride, such as this train station in Malmo, Sweden that has designated spots for cargo bikes.

5. They fuel social and environmental change

Cargo bikes would definitely make your own commute much more eco-friendly, but they are also bringing positive changes to developing communities. As we previously reported, the winner of this year’s Sustainia Award was Wecyclers from Lagos, Nigeria with their fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles that pick up, collect and recycle garbage in low-income neighborhoods. Their initiative also enables people in low-income communities to make money off of the unmanaged waste piling up in their streets, where overburdened municipal governments collect only 40 percent of city garbage.


12 Comments on "Cargo Bikes Are the Perfect Mode of Transportation"

  1. Makati1 on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 8:27 am 

    LOl…. they’ve been common here in the Ps for decades. And they can haul more than 500 lbs but it takes strong legs and an athlete’s heart to move that much on steep inclines. Not to mention car and truck traffic problems. Might work in a development to get to the bus stop or the local 7-Eleven but in downtown Philly … suicide.

  2. paulo1 on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 8:45 am 

    Lots of drawbacks, but a sign of things to come. You wouldn’t want to use one in a hilly steep town, though. I use my MC for weekly shopping trips to town. I have a simple cargo trunk for small purchases and bungee a travel bag turned carrier on the pax seat. Last week it easily fit 4 bags of groceries + 2 ‘bottles’ and would probably do six bags. It is still a rocket doing the 75 km in 35 minutes…a twisty winding mountaineous road. Great mileage and lots of fun. Crappy weather I just put the trip off. If we need bags of flour or cement, etc…we use the Yaris, which also gets very good mileage. Bigger stuff we use an old Toyota PU.

    If I lived in town I would bike everywhere, maybe use one of these cargo bikes. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties I commuted on a bike year round because I preferred to pay off the house rather than waste it on a car. I couldn’t afford another car to simply get to work on and we had no transit. I only missed a couple of days….once -15 with about 20″ snow, and a few times the wind was just too bad. After awhile you don’t even think about it…it is just what you do. Bikes and walking the way of the future. Plus busses and sharing rides.

  3. Davy on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 8:53 am 

    This is the setup I have and it works great. I have 5 monocog bikes that are mountain bikes. Two are my kids and one my is for my wife. These bikes should hold up for a long time being simple and tough.

  4. Kenz300 on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 10:33 am 

    Some cities and states encourage bikes………. they provide safe walking and biking lanes and trails. Cities also should encourage businesses and apartments to provide safe places to lock or store a bicycle. Encourage your elected officials to do more. Speak up.. become an advocate for bicycle use in your city.

    Shopping by bicycle or car? The Netherlands versus Australia. – YouTube

  5. Plantagenet on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 10:51 am 

    Cargo bikes are great in the Netherlands where (1) the land is flat and (2) the population density is among the greatest in the world.

    Cargo bikes are not so useful in places like Switzerland, Australia or Alaska, where the land isn’t flat and population density is much lower.

  6. JuanP on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:03 am 

    Cargo bikes have always been around in Miami Beach. The highest elevation in the city’s streets is 7 feet above sea level, so the whole city is flat. Cargo bikes, bikes, and rollerblades are great for neighborhood trips and local food, mail, and whatnot deliveries. The bridges form a natural barrier that few bike across, even fewer on cargo bikes, but the Venetian Causeway is flat all the way to Miami, and all of South Florida is extremely flat except for the bridges.

  7. Don on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:16 am 

    I’m not sure what town you’re living in Paulo, but, I biked to work once about a decade ago when I was living in Seattle. I was planning on getting into it. Someone threw a cup of soda at me, luckily I had real clothes in my backpack so I could change out of the cold, wet, sticky spandex. The other guys at work that rode said that it was pretty common for people to throw things at them too. Went back to driving the impala and still am, I would prefer not arriving wet and sticky. One guy told me someone threw a half full box of pizza at him.

    If you want to ride a bike around and risk being assaulted be my guest.

    The day the pumps dry up I’ll start riding bikes again, at least they’re better than horses.

  8. paulo1 on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 2:42 pm 

    Hey Don,

    It was Campbell River, B.C. One day I had a milkshake thrown on me. It hit my back and I was so Goddamn mad I couldn’t get the license plate or see who was driving. I would have gone home and got a gun, and I am not kidding. It really hurt. Most days i went in to work very early….before light, and in the summer the dregs are still sleeping off their drunk from the night before so I didn’t have to worry too much. What I hated was the few dogs that tried to get me on my way home. Once I started carrying a bamboo switch they left me alone. I made a holder for it. As time went on I developed a network of back roads and trails to get home on and that was better. I even had some bush trails to use when the s.easters were above 30kt…as it was brutal for the commute home.

  9. baptised on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 3:37 pm 

    Electric bikes are not allowed on Tennessee Greenways, It is a hefty fine.

  10. Don on Fri, 27th Mar 2015 4:25 pm 

    I can remember few times I have been that angry Paulo. I thought maybe you were living in a jerk free zone, I guess they live everywhere. I didn’t mention that they scared me real good and I locked the front wheel up and went into a ditch. I judge you not for wanting to shoot the bastard, trust me if I had a gun on me I would have as well.

    I thought it was pretty bad but I guess I should be glad it was not a milkshake I think that would likely be worse.

    My hat is off to you for continuing to ride after that.

  11. Go Speed Racer. on Sat, 28th Mar 2015 4:33 pm 

    If it had some electric assist, maybe not so bad. Another good thing about cargo bike, you get to go down roadway in cargo bike, I go down roadway in Maserati. I think this is a very good arrangement.

  12. Kenz300 on Sun, 29th Mar 2015 6:02 am 

    Bicycles are a necessary part of the overall transportation system. More needs to be done around the world to embrace the bicycle for health, congestion reduction and environmental reasons.
    Infrastructure modifications need to be made to make transportation by bicycles safe and secure.

    BicycleDutch – YouTube

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