For others, these vehicles are more like passenger trains than freights, whether the passengers are in back …
… or in front.
This Fr8 Family model is designed to carry up to three children in their own seats.
But cargo bikes aren’t just for transporting kids. Here’s an adult musical duo performing while riding in a cargo trike.
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).
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.
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!)
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.
- Mom and daughter on Xtracycle in Portland, OR: © 2008,
- John Floberg and Lisa Hellefond on their weekly grocery run: courtesy of John and Lisa.
- Tire load on CETMA cargo bike: Flickr photographer grrsh, Creative Commons.
- Kids in Joe Bike: Flickr photographer Cordova Duvet, Creative Commons licensing.
- A mom pedals her two kids in a Christiania trike in Portland, OR: © 2008, Patrick Barber.
- Jeff Youngstrom’s photography exhibit to go – on an Xtracycle: courtesy of Jeff Youngstrom.
- Hopworksfiets – beer and pizza cargo bike, Portland – Flickr photographer Elly Blue, Creative Commons.
- B-Line cargo bike: Flickr user BikePortland.org, Creative Commons licensing.
- Postal service cargo bicycle in Denmark: courtesy of Alyse Nelson
- Danish postal service tricycle: courtesy of Alyse Nelson
- Pizza delivery by bike: courtesy of Flickr photographer Matty Lang.
- Patrick Barber operating a Christiania trike in Portland, Oregon: ©2007 Holly McGuire.
- Q19 – cleaning service by bike: Flickr user BikePortland.org, Creative Commons.
- Gardening haul on Joe Bike: Flickr photographer grrsh, Creative Commons.
- Door hanger on a Yuba Mundo: flickr user BikePortland.org, Creative Commons.
- Haul on Bullitt long john: Flickr photographer ykanazawa1999, Creative Commons.
- Boxes and plywood on CETMA: Flickr photographer grrsh, Creative Commons.
- Apartment move via Yuba Mundo: Flickr photographer theoelliot, Creative Commons.
- Living room on an Xtracycle:Flickr photographer cleverchimp, Creative Commons.
- Rear passenger seating on bike: Flickr user LightenUpBikes, Creative Commons.
- Joe Bike with front passengers: Flickr photographer grrsh, Creative Commons.
- Fr8 Family 3-kid bike: Flickr photographer richardmasoner, Creative Commons.
- Musical duo riding in cargo bike: Flickr photographer Philosophographlux, Creative Commons.
- Shopping cart-bike hybrid: Flickr photographer zieak, Creative Commons.