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Photo by Kamil Bialous
Francois Bernaudin and his daughters on a Yuba MundoFrancois Bernaudin is ready for a ride on the Yuba Mundo with his daughters Louanne (very back) and Eléa near Vancouver, BC’s Commercial Drive.
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Photo by Stephen Bilenky
Carrie Collins on a handmade Bilenky cargoCarrie Collins, owner of Fabric Horse utilitarian cycling accessories, rides a handmade Bilenky cargo bike in Philadelphia, PA.
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Photo by Soren Solkaer Starbird
Dorthe Thure and children riding a Christiania Boxcycles Family cargoDorthe Thure, with (l-r) Safir, 7, Lotus, 4, and Kristian, 3 (hidden behind the girls), riding a Christiania Boxcycles Family cargo bike in Cape Cod, MA. The carrying capacity of this bike is 220 pounds (100 kilograms), or up to four children seated. This modern three-wheeler is a direct descendant of a decades-old design from Christiania, who has been building cargo bikes in Denmark since 1984.
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Photo by Tania Lo
Gwendal Castellan and kids on the Cetma Margo bike.Itziar (l) and Loic get a lift with dad Gwendal Castellan on the Cetma Margo bike.
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Photo by Jaime Kowal
David Niddrie on the 2012 Civia HalstedReviewer David Niddrie poses with the 2012 Civia Halsted.
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Photo by Trevor Block
Sarah Beuhler with the Kona MinUteSarah Beuhler and the Kona MinUte in Vancouver, BC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
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Photo by Ben Johnson
Gwendal Castellan on a Larry Vs Harry BullittGwendal Castellan with a fully loaded Larry Vs Harry Bullitt along Vancouver, BC’s industrial waterfront.
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Photo by Richard Masoner
The Metrofiets "Standard"The Metrofiets “Standard” with a light load at the Westside Farmer’s Market in Santa Cruz, CA.
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Photo by Michael Orlandi
A SyCip cargo bikeA SyCip cargo bike custom-built for Michael Orlandi, owner of the Noci gelato store in Mill Valley, CA, holds coolers so that Orlandi can serve his gelato by bike.
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Photo by Trevor Block
Chris Bentzen with the Trek Transport+Chris Bentzen with the Trek Transport+ he reviewed in Vancouver, BC.
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Photo by Marc van Woudenberg
Workcycles Fr8 at workA delivery by bike on the Workcycles Fr8 fitted with plastic industrial-strength boxes.
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Photo by Dominique Labrosse
Tracey Labrosse and children on the Xtracycle EdgeRunner ElectricLuke, Aubrey and Tracy Labrosse on the Xtracycle EdgeRunner Electric in Vancouver, BC.
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photo by Kamil Bialous
Francois Bernaudin and daughters on their Yuba Mundo.The longtail cargo bike is a great vehicle for family trips together. Here, Francois Bernaudin and daughters Louanne (far right) and Eléa enjoy a ride on their Yuba Mundo.
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Photo by Derek Heffernan
Kathleen Wilker and Anna Sierra on a Babboe BakfietsAnna Sierra gets a lift with mom Kathleen Wilker in the Babboe Bakfiets along the Ottawa River in Ontario.
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Photo by Derek Heffernan
Kathleen Wilker and children in the Babboe BakfietsAnna Sierra and Jasper get a lift from mom Kathleen Wilker in the Babboe Bakfiets along the Ottawa River.
Francois Bernaudin and his daughters on a Yuba Mundo
Carrie Collins on a handmade Bilenky cargo
Dorthe Thure and children riding a Christiania Boxcycles Family cargo
Gwendal Castellan and kids on the Cetma Margo bike.
David Niddrie on the 2012 Civia Halsted
Sarah Beuhler with the Kona MinUte
Gwendal Castellan on a Larry Vs Harry Bullitt
The Metrofiets "Standard"
A SyCip cargo bike
Chris Bentzen with the Trek Transport+
Workcycles Fr8 at work
Tracey Labrosse and children on the Xtracycle EdgeRunner Electric
Francois Bernaudin and daughters on their Yuba Mundo.
Kathleen Wilker and Anna Sierra on a Babboe Bakfiets
Kathleen Wilker and children in the Babboe Bakfiets
I started using a cargo bike when my roommate let me borrow hers for some errands. I had been stuffing incongruous things: bread, hand-tools, potting soil, into a swollen backpack, acting as if it was bottomless. It wasn’t, and the seams burst one day, my possessions erupting all over the street.
I started with short jaunts to the store to fetch feed for my chickens. Initially it was a little awkward. The thing felt as long as a canoe, and its center of gravity was low. Pushing off took some getting used to, but once I got my balance and figured out the gearing, I was fine. Since then, I’ve hauled away curbside furniture and carried plants from a local nursery, as well as trekking my roommate’s daughter to the grocery store and back.
I’ve noticed that they’re becoming more ubiquitous: I see longtails parked outside co-ops or with kids straddling the platform on the back. I sometimes get stuck behind a B-Line, an urban cargo bike delivery service, crossing the Hawthorne Bridge. I get coffee at a farmers market at the specially-designed mobile cafe-bike operated by Trailhead Roasters, which was custom designed by Portland bike-builder Metrofiets.
A New Transport Trend
Cargo bikes are becoming a quiet sensation in North America, transforming our ability to use bikes as our main mode of transportation.
Jay Townley, a bicycle industry analyst, is tracking this trend. He said that cargo bikes offer a wide variety of uses: from industries hauling loads, to individual entrepreneurs incorporating them into their businesses and people who use them for practical everyday purposes, such as transporting kids and groceries.
“They give you extra carrying capacity, whether for getting to the market, to daily chores or your kids to school,” Townley said.
A cargo bike is any bike specifically designed to carry a load, be it small, large, heavy or light. Sometimes they can be as simple as a bike with a heavier-duty front rack, a smaller front wheel to reduce the center of gravity and a large range of lower gears to help the rider up hills. Other times it can be a custom built frame with built-in accessories, such as an electric motor, to suite the specific commercial or personal needs of the cyclist, such as transporting as much as 800 pounds (363 kilograms). Since their invention, cargo bikes have come to encompass a wide variety of styles and uses. And they’re starting to pop up all across North America.
A Light Hauling History
Cargo bikes originated in Holland in the 19th century and were used by tradesmen looking to deliver their wares in an age before automobiles. Milkmen delivered milk with them. Bakers delivered bread. The most common type of cargo bike in Holland and Scandinavia was the bakfietsen (which translated from Dutch means “box bike”), which was typically a cargo trike with a box mounted on either the front or back, between two parallel wheels. Another style, the “Long John,” which has an elongated frame and a box sitting low at the front of the bike, became ubiquitous in Europe and quickly grew in popularity elsewhere.
“Back in the early 1930s, the cargo bike ruled Denmark,” said Hans Fogh, of Harry vs. Larry bikes in Copenhagen. “Every company had at least one cargo bike in service to solve company logistics. Two-wheeled Long Johns and three-wheeled cargo trikes were ridden by messengers called svajere. We like to say that the Danish welfare was built by cargo bikes.”
At the same time in the UK, cargo bikes called “delibikes” or “butcher’s bikes” were common. These delivery bikes were precursors to contemporary bike trucks, with a rack mounted to the frame and over the bike’s smaller front wheel. In the United States, from 1939-1967 Schwinn produced what they called a “cycle truck” that would sell over 10,000 units a year at its peak during WWII. Worksman Cycles, that claims to be the oldest bicycle manufacturer in America, founded in 1898, built a small fleet of cargo bikes that were used by the post office for warehouse work, as well as the tricycles used by the Good Humor Ice Cream Company.
Although cargo bike use waned slightly with the introduction of the automobile, they continue to be used throughout the world today. In Asia and Africa, they still account for a large portion of the small goods transportation mix.
Why Cargo Bikes?
As urban density increases, the use of cars for individual transportation and hauling becomes more difficult. Popular sentiment among younger generations is moving away from cars and suburban life, with its attendant sprawl, so having a utilitarian vehicle like a cargo bike makes sense for young city-dwellers.