There has, over the last few years, been a resurgence in using cargo bikes. I have been using one for well over ten years, but it wasn’t a new idea back then.
In the mid 1950s (and probably earlier, I wasn’t around before then) we had several people using cargo bikes of various types.
The window cleaner had his buckets, chammy leathers and ladders. The butcher had a delivery bike. An ice cream trike appeared in our local park one year. I recall the fish-monger proudly showing off his Morris Minor which he bought to replace his trike.
Nowadays though the market and potential is much different. Internet deliveries have caused millions of small parcels to be delivered in hurriedly driven vans. Drivers sometimes have to make 100 or even 130 drops a day to make a living.
My road has daily van drops by Royal Mail, Parcelforce, DPD, Hermes, UPS and DHL. All of this is a massive drain on resources.
The emissions, the congestion and the waste can all be reduced dramatically by cargo bike use. Imagine if each of these companies pooled resources and all delivered their small parcels to a local hub, and from there a cargo bike, perhaps with some power assistance, took the deliveries down all the residential streets?
A nice little earner for someone…
In London Pedalme started using a specially designed bike with a load or seating area in the front. You hail it with an app, and get a ride in the front.
It’s taken off. Where they had 4 bikes they now have 32. They also have dozens of staff.
In addition to competing with the black cabs, they’ve delivered flowers for florists and bread for bakers. They can do office moves, and they have trailers that when attached to the bike add 100s of kilos of capacity.
In Reading cargo bikes are still rare, but they are growing in number. I recently got a Christiania trike to ferry my dogs, and soon started moving all sorts of stuff. I have moved our campaign stall first on my old long bike (a mountain bike with an Xtracycle conversion).
At the recent cycle festival all the displays bar the Reading Cycle Campaign’s arrived by car. Ours arrived and departed by pedal power, as you would expect.
It can be done, but the biggest obstacle at the moment is the barriers on the cycle network. So almost all of the National Cycle Network is off limits.
But once we make Reading more accessible I’m sure they’ll become much more common.