Me and my cargo bike
By Kathryn McNicoll
“I’m not a cyclist, I am a busy mother and transport was a problem to be solved.”
This is what Liz says about herself, meaning she didn’t grow up on and around bikes as her husband did. However, the birth of her first child and the need, for a while, to cross the city at busy times meant a solution to the traffic problem had to be found. Ben would take their daughter in a bike trailer (statistically safer than in a car) but Liz, as a less confident cyclist, was not comfortable cycling like this with her daughter out of sight behind her. (By now they had dispensed with their car).
The turning point was a holiday on the Isle of Wight where they were able to hire a cargo bike and they loved this. When they came back, they looked around and bought a cargo bike, an electric Babboe Curve, which is a trike with your cargo holder in front of you. It felt safe for a less confident cyclist, a standard baby car-seat can be securely mounted in it, and the local bike shop knows the brand well. Accessories include waterproof covers and sunshades, making it an all-weather vehicle. This meant that Liz (and Ben) could cycle with their child in front of them and, when baby number two came along, they were able to take her too.
Now that the younger child is older, she is strapped in next to her sister and there is room for two other children as well. Liz feels it is empowering for children: it is on the right scale for them; they can take toys in the bike to play with; they can chat; they can offer lifts to friends, etc. It’s a warm, safe, friendly place to be. The bike’s box carries up to 100kgs so it can be used for shopping too, and also other adults – such as Liz herself, and even her mother! Ben has delivered boxes around the centre of Oxford – no problem with parking, just take your load and go.
As inexperienced cargo bike buyers, they originally bought a somewhat underpowered Babboe (in retrospect they should have gone for a more powerful motor). As their second child grew, they wanted an even more versatile bike for further adventuring, and bought a Tern GSD (pictured). With a powerful motor and room for two child seats behind the rider, the Tern calls itself the minivan of cargo bikes. You would imagine it was hugely long but in fact it is no longer than a normal bike and it has opened up a new world for them. A recent trip was to London where the new cycle tracks make exploring the city a pleasure.
So what are the main advantages of cargo bikes in their view? Well, you don’t have to be particularly fit or confident to use a cargo trike; journey times are reliable; you can choose your routes (Liz uses car-free routes and backroads much more than main roads); you can avoid exposure to air pollution; it is an enjoyable way for children and parents to get from A to B; it takes the stress out of travelling (no parking issues, no hold-ups). They are cheaper to buy than a car, and practically free to run. Perhaps most important of all, it is wonderful for your mental and physical health.
There are cargo bike finance schemes and many workplaces have cycle to work schemes too. If you would like some advice about what to buy (there are lots of cargo bikes to choose from) get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.