1 hot sunny day
1 picnic lunch (peanut butter and jelly with fruit and crackers recommended)
1 cargo bike with seats for all
Bathing suits and towels
1 playground with splash pad (preferable a working splash pad)
Load up bike with picnic lunch, miscellaneous supplies, and as many children as it can hold (or however many you have hanging around).
“On June 4, 1896 in a tiny workshop behind his home on 58 Bagley Street, [Henry] Ford put the finishing touches on his pure ethanol-powered motor car. After more than two years of experimentation, Ford, at the age of 32, had completed his first experimental automobile…The two cylinder engine could produce 4 horsepower…achieving a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). Ford would later go on to found the Ford Motor Company and become one of the world’s richest men.” —Wikipedia
I’m gradually reducing my car dependance. I enjoy traveling to meetings, hauling groceries, and taking my kids to their dental appointments all on my bike. But one of the few remaining compelling reasons for using my car is to carry adult passengers. For a variety of reasons my adult friends and family do not feel comfortable hopping onto my longtail cargo bike. Can bicycles ever fulfill the role of carrying adult passengers? I believe they can, and (like Henry Ford) I’ve built an experimental vehicle to test my conviction.
Today’s article comes from a guest contributor, Shawn McCarty of Venice, Florida. Shawn is an avid cyclist who has completed bike tours through various parts of the United States and Europe. His blog (aworldspinning.com) has some nice photos of his European adventure. And his custom electric cargo bike is amazing!
If you have biking facts, photos, or a story you think our readers would enjoy, let us know. We’re interested in presenting a variety of topics and points of view as we build our biking community.
No Virtue Required: Car-Lite Family Transportation Is Less Expensive, Faster, and More Flexible than Car-Encumbered Transportation
In his recent post, my co-blogger Don writes about “the virtue in choosing the right [transportation] tool for the job”. I realized that my own family makes regular use of five, count ’em FIVE transportation options: walking; bicycling; busing; driving various CarShare and rental vehicles; and (in dwindling amounts) driving my wife’s tiny red Mini. Yesterday epitomized our highly flexible family transportation: we criss-crossed Ithaca together and separately and then at the end of the day we all landed together on our couch like the opening sequence of a Simpson’s episode.
Workcycles bakfiets, pictured above, is not particularly well-suited for the task, as the couch is much too large to fix in the box. That didn’t stop it from being fun to make it work, anyway.
The best choice for hauling couches to use a Bikes-at-Work
trailer, as seen in the photos below.
Couch weight varies greatly. The one above had lots of metal guts to allow the seats to recline, plus it was water-logged for being outside. Simple couch designs can be relatively light, with a lot of the volume being in cushions.
I try to keep my total cargo weight not much above 200, so that the handling remains safe. It will be tempting to give friends rides on couches that you might be carrying, but this most likely quickly put you over that weight limit. That’s why the experience above didn’t last much longer than it took to take the photo. On some cargo hauling trips, I have carried a bathroom scale with me to check how much things weigh, to avoid exceeding safe limits. With practice I could get a sense of how cargo weights were adding up as the trailer was being loaded.
The lowest-effort arrangement for hauling couches by bike is to pair the Bikes-at-Work
trailer with electric assist. With that arrangement, I’ve been able to haul couch and loveseat pairs
Cargo bikes are increasingly viable as car-replacement vehicles, but there are some significant differences between the options to choose from. The Surly Big Dummy is lighter, while Workcycle’s bakfiets puts kids front and center with a large box for cargo up front. Yuba’s elMundo is one way to add electric assist to the equation.
I have not had my own car for a decade. Instead my family replaces a second car with a number of bikes and other gear. Our bikes have included WorkCycles bakfiets, an electric Yuba Mundo and a Surly Big Dummy. Here’s how they compare with each other based on our experience riding each as part of our regular routines.
The basic details about each are readily available online, and won’t be repeated here, although the photos below will give you a sense of each.
Here’s a little photo essay about my family’s bicycles. I’m proud to say that we use our bikes a lot. Each bike is tailored to its user: I drive a cargo bike capable of carrying passengers and cargo long distances; my wife drives a slower and lighter but more stylish bike; my 11-year-old daughter Thea and her friend JJ drive bikes tailored to their 2-mile drive to school. (My son Jasper, aged 15, resists having a bike. He pretty much walks wherever he needs to go.) Ithaca is hilly, so it’s important for a utility bike to have an electric motor. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years experimenting with electric bike motors and other accessories. Maybe you can benefit from my discoveries.
The Aqua-Xtracycle is a do-it-yourself amphibious electric cargo bike. This video shows how it works, and the photo gallery below shows a bit of our development process. In a future post I’ll describe how you can make your own Aqua-Xtracycle.
If you have been following my blog about electric cargo bikes for a while, you know that I often make predictions about where the market for these bikes will go. Over time, many of my predictions have come to pass, but usually later or on a smaller scale than I had anticipated. For example, I wrote this almost a year ago:
I know what cargo biking will look like when it enters the mainstream, and I bet you do, too. We’ll see stores like Wal-Mart and Costco selling electric cargo bikes for about half the price of today’s models. They will be made in China, and probably designed there as well. When that day comes, I won’t know whether to cheer or cry…
That was one of my most audacious predictions, and one that I didn’t expect to happen any time soon. But let’s check where we are one year later. Available at Wal-Mart? Yes, but not electric cargo bikes, just electric bikes in their traditional form, priced between $400 and $800. Still, an electric bike for $400? That’s just unbelievable. Or maybe crazy – the bike has mixed reviews from customers on Amazon.
But as far as I can tell it’s not manufactured in China, and surely not designed there, so that part of my vision hasn’t arrived yet.