Why Consider a Cargo Bike?
Why would you want a cargo bike in Portsmouth?
Whilst there are many, many good reasons for having a cargo bike (“Bakfiets”, in Dutch) there are some really, really good reasons that are specific to Portsmouth.
Having worked for many years in The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, I’ve seen what cities with great cycling infrastructure can achieve; nearly everyone goes to school by bike, there is no ‘school run’ in the car. Huge numbers of people cycle to the local station, leave their bike there, and commute to work by train.
We are not The Netherlands, Denmark, or Sweden. We do have some similarities though.
Portsmouth is flat (until you get to Cosham) and relatively compact. Because of the increase in population density, car ownership has led to massive parking problems; it was the key issue at recent local elections. Finding any way of avoiding some of those issues has to be a great thing, and having a cargo bike can help.
I bought a cargo bike when I became a grandparent. I’d seen them all over the place in The Netherlands and other European countries. I was planning to use my bike as our daily transport (me and the grandchildren) but I wanted something safer, bigger, better.
I bought a Danish 3-wheel cargo bike, with enough space for four children in the big box at the front. It has full rain protection, disc brakes, and is really handy for taking children shopping, as all the shopping bags slide under the seats.
So, why is it good to have a cargo bike in Portsmouth?
Cargo bikes are very, very stable (especially 3-wheeler versions, obviously). With a strong centre stand, the bike will stay upright by itself allowing passengers to clamber in, out, over, around and just about anything else they get the whim to try.
It’s really, really easy to keep the passenger(s) and stuff you’re moving about nice and dry. Big rain covers with windows are available for every cargo bike, and children love the sense of it being ‘their own space’.
It’s safe. With the children strapped into a 3-point harness in a marine-ply box wrapped in aluminium and built on a steel frame, it’s pretty robust.
Children love it. They can see stuff, shout to their mates on the street, eat and drink (it’s easy to clean the wooden floor).
It’s really, really easy to ride. Designed to have an extremely low centre of gravity, it’s easy to keep upright. And most of them have a really good 8-speed hub gear setup, making starting off easy and getting up to a decent clip not impossible.
When you don’t have to transport children, it’s surprising how much else you can move about. I’ve had a garden shredder, a lawnmower, a strimmer, a box of tools and some shopping in mine, and it didn’t look full.
Shopping made easy. Buy everything you would if you took the car. Put it in the bike. Ride home.
Feel righteous about being healthy, zero-carbon and using less road space.
It’s just amazingly good fun. Everyone feels better after a bit of bicycle therapy; it’s that short break in the bike that can help transition from one activity to another – the constant rush, rush, rush of our busy lives takes a back seat and everyone has a chuckle.
You can share the bike amongst friends and family – most cargo bikes are incredibly simple to adjust for bigger or smaller riders. And it’s comfortable – an upright position, with a very good view.
You can see what’s going on in the box! If you’ve ever had the fun of a fight breaking out in the back of the car, and not been able to do anything about it, you’re going to love the cargo bike. You can see what’s going on and intervene safely without stopping, and if you have to stop, you can stop anywhere you like.
You can stop anywhere you like! Like on the school zigzags – it’s a bike, not a car. Or outside the coffee shop, or push the bike to outside the shop in the pedestrianized area.
You will be very popular with your children and their friends.
Parking. Again. Park it nose-in in your street in a small gap. Think of all the time and effort you’ve saved, never mind the cost.
You can get an electric one now….If you’ve got a bit of a haul to deal with, you can buy an electric cargo bike; conquer the windy seafront (both directions!) with ease. They’re cheap to run.
It’s really, really quick. In busy times, a cargo bike is as quick or quicker than a car, especially if you’re doing the school run – you just pull up by the gate, or take the bike into the playground, and decant the sproglets (who have had a hoot on the way to school, got some fresh air, seen some stuff, not just the back of the front seat in the car). Even in quieter times, the electric bike is quicker than the car, overall, because of the ease of parking and proximity to your destination.
Did I say it’s incredibly good fun? We take food, scooters, snacks, water, catapults, footballs, sandcastle kit, coats, boots, absolutely everything, in the bike down to the beach or to the park. I have from time to time taken a petrol stove and cooking equipment down to the beach in the evening and cooked a simple dinner on the beach.
It’s not all sweetness and light, there are some things you need to be aware of.
Cargo bikes are big and heavy. You can’t easily move them upstairs.
You’ll need somewhere to keep it, and a decent rain cover it that’s outside.
You won’t be using it for long solo rides through the country.
If you’ve got children to get to and from school, or lots of stuff to move about town, having a cargo bike is a no-brainer. You will love nearly every day you’re on it, even when it’s windy and raining.
Listen to the wind blow, notice so much more, see people you know, stop for a quick chat.
You can go your own way.; watch the sunrise. If you wake up, and don’t want to smile, get on your bike. You’ll see things a different way. I know you don’t believe it’s true, but it really, really is.
It’s the loving feeling you get on a bike shared with others. It’s the right thing to do. You never knew just popping out on your bike could brighten up your day quite so much. And it really, really does.