The mighty cargo bike.
I visited Amsterdam, also known as Bicycle Mecca, a few weekends ago and cargo bikes were in fact everywhere. They were carrying dogs. They were carrying kids (and not just one, but three). They were carrying groceries. They were carrying furniture. It certainly seemed that the cargo bike was the Amsterdam mini-van.
Amsterdam isn’t alone. In Copenhagen, 25% of families with two children or more have a cargo bike.
“But we don’t have the same bike infrastructure as in Europe,” you say.
It’s true, Amsterdam is one of those cities that’s well-known for its cycle culture, and it looks a lot different than where most of us live. There are, for example, about 780,000 people in Amsterdam, and an estimated 881,000 bikes, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t start embracing cargo bikes in a similar way. Many families across the country are opting for cargo bikes for family-friendly transportation, and even big businesses are getting on board.
The Whole Foods store on Third & 3rd in Brooklyn has partnered with People’s Cargo to to do all of their delivery via custom built cargo bike, for example. In Portland, Trailhead Roasters delivers craft coffee by cargo bicycle, custom built by Metrofiets. In Seattle, Freewheel Cargo works with a variety of businesses to deliver goods in the urban core. Red Riding Goods in Toronto runs a similar operation.
These are just a few examples, as more businesses are using cargo bikes to replace delivery trucks and vans. In big cities, cargo bikes instead of delivery trucks are a smart choice, as they reduce pollution, but also overall congestion, making a city’s urban core more pedestrian friendly.
Cargo bikes also provide an economic opportunity. In The Netherlands, shipping giant DHL runs 10% of their operation with cargo bikes. When they replaced 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes, it resulted in a savings of 430,000€ (about $578,000) per year.
When it comes to transportation, we seem to be stuck with the status quo. With better bike infrastructure across the country, though, we could make it easier for more and more businesses, and individuals, to opt for a cargo bike for transporting things, and people.
Cargo bikes aren’t going to replace trucks and minivans for all trips; I’m certain you don’t want to make the 70-mile drive to Grandma’s house with the whole family in a cargo bike. But for smaller trips, and particularly those in the heart of urban areas, using a cargo bike as a transportation option deserves credit, and we need more policy supporting them.
Imagine an urban center where there were fewer delivery trucks and more cargo bikes. That would mean less congestion, less pollution and fewer delivery people forced to sit in traffic. Doesn’t that sound like a good world to live in?
Photo Credit: Richard Masoner