Dreaming of cargo bikes

Posted on June 12th, 2011 by Laura Byrne Paquet in News

An article in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen got me dreaming, yet again, about cargo bikes.

I’ll be the first to admit that these vehicles are, as the Citizen story put it, the minivans of bikes. You’ll probably never see Lance Armstrong riding one. I’m sure the Lycra-and-Power-Bar crew at any cool cycling shop would laugh at them. But as a lifelong nerd, I’m familiar with being unfashionable. And I seriously want one.

So what is a cargo bike? If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Bangkok or other bike-crazed city, you’ve likely seen one of these things without knowing what to call them. They’re bicycles that have been remodelled to include a large platform, box or basket–usually between the wheels–suitable for carrying things like groceries, building supplies, furniture or pets. Like this one.

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by grrsh.

My husband and I don’t own a car, and by and large, we get along just fine with a bundle buggy, a regular bike, public transit, a car-share membership and the odd car rental. But there are days when it would be great just to bike over to the nearby grocery store for a big bag of kitty litter or a couple of flats of pop–to say nothing of a 2-4 from the beer store. And how often have I taken a $15 cab to the train station because transferring my suitcase between multiple city buses is just too much of a hassle? If I could toss the bag into a cargo box, I could bike to the train station in about 15 minutes.

Of course, that raises another question: would it be safe to leave the bike locked to a post for the weekend while I headed off by train to Toronto or wherever? There again, the good folks in the Netherlands have the civilized answer: indoor, paid, supervised bike parking garages.

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by fietsberaad.

Of course, I’m realistic enough to realize that in car-crazy Ottawa with its harsh winters, cargo bikes aren’t likely to replace real minivans soon. But a girl can dream of running serious errands and getting some exercise at the same time, can’t she?

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