Close your eyes for a moment. Visualize a commuter bicycling to work. Pictures of an unencumbered, stylish, youthful single person may come to mind. What your mind’s eye didn’t see were the kids or more than two bags of groceries that many commuters also need to transport.
For families, the daily commute has more moving parts than home, office, and the roads in-between. Ferrying children to and from school, extracurricular activities, and other appointments are par for the course. Carrying extra food for parents who work out and snacks for kids takes up more space than typical panniers can handle.
Consider Your Choices
Enter the bakfiets. Referred to as cargo bikes in North America, these purpose-built bikes may change your view of what is “bike possible.” The translation of the Dutch word “bakfiets” refers to its utilitarian quality and means “box bike.” The majority are simply either load in the front or load in
the back models.
The load in the front model comes with two or three wheels. The two-wheeled “long john” looks like a normal bike behind the handlebars. But, in front sits a box that can hold children and supplies. A smaller wheel in front of the box fits on a BMX-sized fork. On the tricycle, a box is located between two front wheels, often with a shopping cart style-handlebar. Everything else resembles the familiar diamond frame bicycle.
As the name implies, the load in the back “longtail” is a standard bicycle with the chain permanently stretched out. The rear rack is built in. On some models, the geometry requires the use of a smaller rear tire. This creates a lower center of gravity which pays dividends when hauling tall boxes or squirmy little ones.
With options for hauling three hundred pounds or more, commuters needing to move more than themselves have choices. If moving a load consisting of two or three kids, six bags of groceries, and anything else picked up on the way home sounds intimidating, electrify any of these bikes out of the box, or with after market electric motors, and you’ll feel like a super hero.
Bike commuters face challenges that can continue at the office door. If your office only has a large closet on the eighth floor to store your bicycle, or you live in a high-rise. fear not. “Cycletrucks” and “midtails” are variations that fit into small places without giving up much in the way of hauling capacity. What sets them apart is that a large front rack is attached directly to the frame. A cycletruck’s size is in-between a commuter bike and a folding bike. Midtails are short longtails.
Cargo Bikes: A Creative Solution to Commuting Conflicts
With all the publicity given to the economic, health and environmental benefits of biking to work, riders with children are often not considered. But the dream of commuting to work by bicycle doesn’t need to be abandoned because of growing family responsibilities. Explore your choices and join the growing community of cargo bike commuters. – Jerold Mitchell
Jerold was literally driven to cargo bikes in an effort to better enjoy his local West Los Angeles community with his family. Cargobikelane.com is where Jerold shares all he learns about bikes that make a car-light/car-free life easier.