For others, these vehicles are more like passenger trains than freights, whether the passengers are in back …

Rear passenger seating on bike_Flickr_LightenUpBikes

… or in front.

Joe Bike with front passengers_Flickr_grrsh

This Fr8 Family model is designed to carry up to three children in their own seats.

Fr8 Family 3-kid bike_Flickr_richardmasoner

But cargo bikes aren’t just for transporting kids. Here’s an adult musical duo performing while riding in a cargo trike.

Musical duo riding in cargo bike_Flickr_Philosophographlux

(If you like these photos, many more are here, here, here, and here.)

Whimsy

Cargo bikes can also express an artistic streak which, while it won’t end oil addiction or stop climate change, does add a dash of whimsy to urban life (and some frivolity to this post).

Take, for example, the “cart-bike”—a derelict bike welded to a grocery store shopping cart: “It is quite the head turner,” says its originator, “but not a good corner turner.” (Short video here)

Shopping cart bike hybrid_Flickr_zieak

The picnic-table bike is an instant classic, with its built-in grill and sun shade.

A charcoal grill attachment is also possible on a long tail, however, as this Xtracycle video explains.

DIT: EcoDeck – Bar-Be-Que Grill Install from Xtracycle on Vimeo.

 

Finally, in the absurdist humor category, there is the Waffle Bike, my favorite art bike project. It’s “a fully weaponized waffle making device complete with call to prayer public address system.”

(More novelty cargo bikes, including pedal-powered espresso carts and muscle-driven camper vans, are here. Check them out!)

Picking Up

To pick up my more-serious thread (oops — that reminds me of [this fun video of three cargo bikers literally towing a broken pickup), what’s clear from all the inventing and tinkering and experimenting in cargo bikes is that we’ve yet to reach the limits of muscle-powered urban transportation.

I doubt that cargo bikes will ever amount to a substantial share of freight hauling even in cities. The motor is an amazing technology, and hauling large loads is where it makes most sense.

Still, cargo bikes seem destined to fill a small but growing niche in our communities. Unlike electric bikes, they fit perfectly into North America’s existing bike culture (macho, anti-auto, lighthearted). They extend options for car-less and car-lite businesses and families. And they make a tremendous amount of sense for certain applications, such as mail and pizza delivery, grocery runs, and in-town service businesses like house cleaners.

As our neighborhoods grow more compact, mixed, and bike-friendly, and when we put a price on carbon, cargo bikes are likely to grow steadily in numbers and uses. They are likely, in fact, to become commonplace—symbols and reminders of how human power and human ingenuity are chipping away at an unreliable, climate-changing, and ocean-endangering petroleum supply.

That glimpse beyond addiction is perhaps the greatest public service they perform.

Huge thanks to volunteer and urban planner Alyse Nelson for doing research that made this post possible.

This post originally appeared at Sightline’s Daily Score blog.

Photo credits: