Cargo Bikes London

Cargo Bikes London


I have fallen in love with a new bike. I don’t own it. It belongs to the Crystal Palace Transition Town of which I am a member.

What’s it for? We use it in place of a car to transport gardening tools for a local community gardening project.  This bike is the perfect way to transport tools for forty volunteer gardeners, because you can pedal it from right where the tools are stored to exactly where you plan to use them, even if that is the other side of an expanse of grass.

Hills: In Crystal Palace there are some particularly steep sections of hill. I have found at times it is easier to jump off the bike and use it as a wheel barrow for a short section and then get back on and start pedalling when the gradient is less extreme

Parking: Unlike a car you never have to worry about where you are parking. There is an immobiliser, as long as you can find something to lash it to you’re good.

Riding:  It’s a pleasure to ride. It is much bigger than a normal bike and that lowers the bikes centre of mass.  As a result it has a lovely slow lilting feel to ride. It’s more like being in charge of a boat than a bike.

You are a much bigger presence on the road, so cars give you a much wider birth. I am not sure, but a lot of cars pass you slowly because these things are still unusual. People are interested to know what you are carting in the front. My guess is that at least half the cars are slowing down to have a peak in the bucket.

I have noticed that when I am pulling my bike trailer:  You take up more space on the road, and cars give you a much wider birth, this is the same.

Cars know the bike is bigger and heavier, even if you stand up and pedal, that bike isn’t ever going to wiz away. This takes away all the pressure on you to ride quickly so drivers accept that you are going to slow them down until you let them pass. However you do still get people, impatiently trying to squeeze by between you and road islands.

Over all though, it is more pleasant to interact with traffic on this bike than on a normal bike.

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

Kids: Took the bike to my sister’s so that I could let her kids have a go in it. They absolutely loved it: Everything from purposefully nocking helmets together because they realised they were sitting close enough to, pointing at every parked Car and saying “AAH! THE CARS COMING AT US.” and then giggling as we went past each car, to trying to get me to take them round the block 10 times.

I don’t have to do the school run with them but I have been in the car when Renee my sister has been taking them. I much prefer having the kids in the cargo bike than I would having them behind me when driving: They are up front with the best view. I can see them and what they are doing, and most importantly when they have a question they turn round and look at you, so you can hear them easily and respond without difficulty. I don’t relish the thought of being asked to drive, my sister’s kids somewhere, but I would enjoy taking them in the cargo bike.

Hayley and I live a car free life and thought that when we had kids that would come to a natural end. I now no longer think that. I will definitely get a cargo bike when we start a family if not before.

Most importantly: there comes a point in life when you have to stop messing about. As a teenager it’s fun to commandeer a supermarket shopping trolley, put one of your mates in and go tearing down the road singing “Jamaica we have a bob slay team”, until one of the wheels get stuck and then they are flung from it onto the tarmac and fall awkwardly. You realise that you shouldn’t have done that. But the point is, as you get older you become more sensible, that doesn’t mean that you want to stop messing about.

Cargo Bikes Crystal Palace


One of my friends came to stay. The night before he was at a different friend’s in Brixton, I pedalled the cargo bike down the hill and picked him up on it. As we pedalled up the hill, we waved at pedestrians and loudly proclaimed “GOOD DAY!”. It was fun to see people’s faces crack a smile. They tried to retain their worried averted look, and found themselves amused and smiling.

When you cargo bike people are lovely. They are friendly. You can’t communicate with people in cars, we tend to put up this invisible wall between the pavement and the carriage. It’s like the curb stones have a magical power to render people mute. We don’t like being threatened, and we don’t like “weirdoes” but we do really like non-threating grown men having fun. As soon as you confidently say “GOOD DAY!” 70% of people are so relieved you are the latter and not the former: they say something fun back to you.

Having a grown man in the front is more work than is practical, particularly going up Crystal Palace hill. But it can be done and it is fun. It’s like someone has gone and designed a shopping trolley for the purpose of pushing your friends around in it. As a means of transporting cargo it easily renders the vast majority of car journeys obsolete. Transporting young children is not only fun, it’s easy. It’s much quicker to get two kids strapped into a cargo bike, than it would be to put them in a car. I’d love to see how journey times compare with cars, if you include the getting-in-and-out bit.

So in conclusion, I think these things are basically wonderful. I really hope that these slow, gentle manatees of the road become more frequent in London. If they do, it’ll certainly be a much friendlier place.


Cargo Bike Day Out

Fun times.