What’s not to love about a carbon neutral vehicle? With hauling capacity for everything from kids to cupcakes, kegs to cats, a cargo bicycle is zero emissions utility transport.
While cargo bikes are mostly showcased as a way to “green” your urban or suburban lifestyle, I have begun seeing more rural uses for them. I recently read an article on how to pack out an elk on two mountain bikes after a day of hunting. How about being able to pack out in one cargo bike trip? What’s wrong with a little hunting if it’s ethical and sustainable? I wouldn’t do it (I’m too much of an animal lover and bleeding heart), but I’ll admit it could be the ultimate in eating local while using an environmentally friendly mode of transportation! The cargo bike paints quite a different picture than the usual “battle wagon” used for tracking game. But even if you don’t go that route, it’s better to pick up your groceries via cargo bike than car, right? Anything cars can do, bikes can do better!
My dad is lending my husband a cargo bike to see if that will be the third bike he buys. My latest pursuit is canning, (currently I’m perfecting my own peach butter recipe!) and we can’t wait to use the cargo bike to haul the bushels of peaches from the farmer’s market. And in a bit of reversal, I recently had a customer inquiring about a cargo bike for their PA farm.
Growing up in the bike business, I was always aware of Worksman Cycles, (est. 1898 and still made in the USA!) and of course I knew all about Bilenky cargo bikes, which are the best in the world in my opinion. Bilenky added cargo bikes to the product line in 1998, and I am quickly becoming very aware that there is a not-so-quiet cargo bike revolution going on. The evidence is all around. In the new book, On Bicycles, edited by Amy Walker, chapter 18 is a piece about the history and evolution of cargo bikes, by Australian author and biking-with-dogs expert, Finley Fagan (and Bilenky gets a shout out!) Independent filmmaker Liz Canning is also directing a crowd-sourced documentary about cargo bikes, called “(R)evolutions Per Minute: Cargo Bikes in the U.S.”
More and more bike shows and bike events are adding cargo bike elements to the fun. And dedicated cargo bike festivals, races, and cargo bike sports and games (cargo bike balloon jousting anyone?) are also proliferating
Bicycles, by necessity, are used for all sorts of hauling duties in developing nations. Standard issue seems to be a certain heavy single speed. A cargo bike of any kind would offer a major improvement in convenience and capacity to people such as those I came across in Africa this past summer. The Chinese produced Phoenix was the ride of choice in Mainland Tanzania, while Zanzibar Island favored a stout mixte style with fenders, chainguards, and racks. Justin had the chance to take a Phoenix for a spin while at one of our safari camps.
As he barreled away on this beast of a bike into the Lake Manyara sunset, the owner of the bike, wearing traditional Masai dress yelled, “no brake, no brake!” I saw folks who managed to balance loads of agricultural produce, livestock, textiles, building materials, or multiple people on a regular two-wheeler. Oh the bike anecdotes I could tell from our weeks in Tanzania. But that’s a story for another column…
If a road bike (or track bike) is the Thoroughbred of bicycles, and maybe a mountain bike is a Quarter Horse, then cargo bikes must be the Clydesdales and Percherons. It takes all kinds to make a world.