Cargo bikes delivering change in Headington

Cargo bikes delivering change in Headington

By Jonny Ives

In the past 12 months cargo bikes have become a common sight across Oxford. Jonny Ives went up the hill to Headington to find out what lies beneath the growth of the big bike. 

While the bike users of Headington wait patiently for low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and decent cycle infrastructure to reach them up the hill, a quiet revolution has already begun. 

Over the past 12 months, there has been a noticeable rise in cargo bikes on the roads of Headington as more people discover the convenience and enjoyment of a big bike.

Ian Callaghan was something of a pioneer when he got his Douze Messenger ten years ago. “There were one or two cargo bikes around at the time, which had made me think something similar might work for us,” Ian said. “Our two girls were still small and it made getting them to nursery and school, and me to work, so much easier and quicker.”

Life with a longtail

Lucy Little, who lives in Risinghurst, has had her Surly longtail for three years. “I don’t drive so I’ve always travelled by bike or bus,” Lucy said. “I had an ordinary bike with one child seat but it got stolen while I was pregnant and I thought a big bike to carry two kids would be a good idea. I found this one on eBay and it was the start of the love story with my bike.”

Now Lucy has three children, and the Surly is still doing great service.

Flora Bagenal also opted for a longtail, finding a Yubba Mundo second-hand and getting an e-assist kit retro-fitted by Warlands, the bike shop on the Botley Road that stocks a range of cargo-bike options. “It immediately changed everything for us,” Flora said. “We went for a longtail because we wanted to be able to do longer journeys and to be able to use it when the kids got bigger. It can carry loads up to 200 kg so it should be good for a while.”

Flora concedes that the longtail design means the passengers might get wet when it rains but for her the benefits outweigh this drawback. “It is so much quicker to take the bike rather than the car to anywhere in the city,” she said. “And you can park it right outside, which makes a big difference with small children.”

Carrying the kids with a cargo

Like the Douze, a Bakfiets cargo bike carries its load in front of the rider and offers the option of a rain tent to keep passengers safe from the weather. For Rebecca and Duncan Robertson, an e-assist Bakfiets was the way to go.

“We use it daily for dropping the kids at nursery, day trips into town and shopping,” Duncan said. “The e-assist makes it much more accessible. It opens up going into town and back up the hill for both of us. It’s like cycling with a constant tailwind and makes the journey much more comfortable.”

What to buy?

Cargo bikes outside Warlands cycle shop in Botley Road

Andy Holme at Warlands has seen sales of e-bikes and cargo bikes grow significantly in recent years. “The first question a customer might ask could be ‘What’s the cheapest option?’” Andy said, “but that’s closely followed by ‘What’s best for me?’ and ‘What’s going to last?’”

Key decisions include two wheels or three, and front or rear load. Even if they have done a lot of research, a test ride will often change a customer’s mind and e-assist options have undoubtedly transformed the market.

“People quickly realise that e-assist makes it an enjoyable experience,” Andy said. “It does make a cargo bike that much more expensive but it means it will get used.”

Ian Callaghan’s Douze has no e-assist but he acknowledges the importance of the motor in selling the concept of a cargo bike as a viable option for more people.  “Cargo bikes are the first step in reducing car dependency and electric cargo bikes make this a reality for more people,” he said. “We got rid of our second car. Other people have got rid of their only car. It shows that change is possible if you want to make it happen.”

Cyclox is planning a cargo bike event for later this summer. Check the Events page for news.


2 Responses

  1. […] inclines, the weight of Matias, me and his wheelchair, I decided to go with the most powerful pedal assist I could find. The result is that it pulls us along quite nicely and still gives me a bit of a […]

  2. […] final thing I’ve noticed about cargo-bike users is a great sense of community. When I take my children on my bike they wave and get waved at, […]

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