When most people think of a bike, they imagine something like this.
That’s the picture Boris Johnson probably had in his head when he said “of course you can’t deliver a fridge-freezer on a bike”. This idea – of cycling as a hobby, rather than a serious form of transport has held sway in the UK for decades.
But seeing bikes as toys has stopped us from seeing what they’re really capable of. And that’s led people to think we need cars and vans more than we actually do.
The endless possibilities of a cargo bike
The ‘standard’ one-person upright bike is a brilliantly useful tool, even without fridge-carrying capabilities. But for those who are able to cycle, cargo bikes open up a whole world of other possibilities.
Cargo bikes can range from regular two-wheelers with a basket added on, to heavy-duty electric powered juggernauts with multiple seats and monster trailers.
If we used them to their full potential, cargo bikes could eliminate more than half of all goods-carrying car and van journeys in cities. If that happened we’d all feel the benefits of cleaner air, calmer streets and less climate change.
Here’s real-world proof of the weird, wonderful and wildly useful things you never knew could be carried on a bike:
1. Multiple children
Living car-free with kids is perfectly possible – if you’ve got the right bike.
"Oh, I have kids. That's why I need a car." [BTW, I was so happy to see A image of folks of color on a cargo bike. When I get my millions I'm providing e-bikes to families of color] pic.twitter.com/KHGWwwk2u4
— Courtney Cobbs (she/her) 🚲🏳️🌈 (@CourtneyCyclez) July 21, 2019
Happy kids in a “bakfiets” on the way to the train station. Without e-assist; amazing!#bakfiets #cargobike #happykids #dutchcycling #DecadeoftheCargoBike #Nijmegen
Posted with permission pic.twitter.com/GpsxiD96K1
— J⭕️s Sluijsmans (@JosSluijsmans) July 29, 2020
Carting a chest of drawers across town is a classic need-a-car situation, but it doesn’t have to be.
Heaviest: A solid wood dresser and two safes. In retrospect, that could've been two trips! pic.twitter.com/uzglibTzj1
— Graham 🚴🏻 Freeman (@gjmf) October 7, 2020
Kitchen table? pic.twitter.com/7MgzlBfpc2
— Chris Kenyon (@ChrisKenyonEU) October 7, 2020
3. Multiple dogs
Is there a higher form of happiness than this?
in case anyone is mad at the new cycle lane on london bridge pic.twitter.com/hb1TexNLpt
— honor elliott (@honorelliott_) October 9, 2020
4. A week’s worth of food
Cargo bikes make light work of the grocery shop, or even a run to the food bank.
No items that are particularly unusual (and with a trailer not a cargo bike) but pre-covid, every Wednesday, I would haul about 60kg of soon to be thrown away food to a community kitchen. pic.twitter.com/eJlhUD1l8r
— Cutts (@CuttsOnTheFell) October 7, 2020
— Speedy Minnow (@MinnowSpeedy) September 21, 2020
5. Building and construction materials
From DIY at home, to contractors carrying tools around town, builders are starting to embrace cargo bikes.
There will soon be fewer vans in Amsterdam, as the e-bike increasingly becomes the construction worker's preferred means of transport. But do these contractors miss their vans?
— Dutch Cycling Embassy (@Cycling_Embassy) October 7, 2019
— Michael Barratt (@MBCyclingTM) September 23, 2020
Does by trailer count? pic.twitter.com/0jUukquuXe
— Alan Wright (@AlnThinks) October 7, 2020
6. Everyone’s parcels
For delivery companies looking for the quickest route around town, cargo bikes make perfect sense.
Parcel giants UPS and DHL are already doing this in a few places, and companies like Green Link have been delivering parcels in York and Darlington for well over a decade.
7. An industrial fridge
Sorry Boris Johnson, you most definitely can carry a fridge on a bike.
Industrial fridges in transit. By bike. pic.twitter.com/wi7lHgjur3
— Pedal Me (@pedalmeapp) July 24, 2020
8. Ten thousand covid care packages
In late March 2020, as the UK went into lockdown, Lambeth Council enlisted Pedal Me to help deliver thousands of care packages, full of essential home products and food, to people in need.
In total, the Pedal Me fleet covered over 20,000km to distribute nearly 10,000 packages, moving around about 150,000kg across Lambeth.
9. Urgent medical supplies
— Taras Grescoe (@grescoe) October 6, 2020
Meanwhile, Copenhagen’s famous ‘sperm bike’ rushes deep-frozen samples to fertility clinics all over the city.
10. The DJ booth
Never change, Berlin. Never change.
unreal! berlin doing what it does best and keeping the party alive through the love for electronic music 🎵 🖤 pic.twitter.com/IuAhWrMRzJ
— Rebūke (@rebukemusic) October 6, 2020
11. Literally all your possessions
Moving house by bike. It’s a thing. The Pedalme app lets Londoners book a cargo bike with a monster trailer to carry your bed, that wobbly wardrobe and legions of pot plants to your new place. They’ve even got rain covers for wet weather!
5 children. A bunch of long steel rods. And, all our possessions! pic.twitter.com/WSzcIeoFZK
— ingrina (@agreeninn) October 7, 2020
Cargo bikes for everyone
The truth is that using a private car is total overkill for most day-to-day journeys. And as these examples show, driving isn’t even necessary for many heavy-duty tasks.
Imagine how much better the streets would be if everyone could use a cargo bike to carry heavy shopping or take the kids to nursery.
That world is still a long way off at the moment, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Councils and the government could help by supporting local bike-sharing schemes, subsidising purchases for people on lower incomes, and providing more secure bike storage on every street.
If you’d like to see all that in your area, join the campaign to transform transport and we’ll work together to make it happen.