First week with a Bobike Mini: two kids on a longtail cargo bike

Everything is normal.

Our son is now old enough to sit up on a bike. With our first child,
we had one bike that was able to carry children, a bakfiets. Now we
have a choice between a Big Dummy, and Yuba Mundo as well as the
bakfiets
.

Considering that the older child now weighs 40 pounds, I was
particularly interested to try out riding two children on the electric
Yuba Mundo. The assist increases the range and reduces the effort.

My wife reports that the new setup is notably easier. She has taken the
bakfiets before with both kids– to drop off the 4-year old at day care.
On the electric Yuba Mundo, she reported that the same trip was
definitely easier, and took about the same amount time as a car.

Our challenge to address with the BoBike Mini will be napping. On the
bakfiets, we used Sleep Dog to rest a napping head on.

We are considering buying a headrest for the BoBike Mini. However, as
the Rideabye Baby post on
Totcycle points out, the little sleeper can still miss the headrest by
nodding off to the side.

Are there other solutions we should be considering?

One compatibility note: the foot rests of the BoBike Mini bumped into our Bread Basket accessory, so we had to choose one or the other. It has not turned out to be such a big deal to switch between them. The BoBike has a quick release that leaves only a small collar on the bike. When I wanted to deliver a big pan of fresh pasta to a friend, it took just a few minutes to remove the BoBike seat, and tighten the four bolts that hold the Bread Basket on.

Some more photos from the week follow.

Continue reading First week with a Bobike Mini: two kids on a longtail cargo bike

Transportation: All Options on the Table!

Don on Hammer Truck

For the past couple of years, it has been my habit to begin each New Year with a status update on my blog. In past updates, I’ve described how my cargo bike lifestyle is developing, how the cargo bike market is growing, and I’ve even tried to predict what the young year might bring. In moments of wild optimism, I’ve declared “this is the year of the electric cargo bike!”

My annual update is a little late this year, partly due to the extra effort needed to coordinate with Mark and Larry to bring our combined super-blog online. I think you’ll agree the time was well-spent. I’m personally quite excited about it, because the frequent contact with kindred spirits makes me feel less solitary in my pursuit of more efficient, more environmental, and more humanitarian transportation. Even better, I will now have more time to write instead of spending hours on the more mechanical aspects of maintaining a web blog. (Mark and Larry are both more blog-savvy than I, although I hope to do my part!)

It’s ironic that I’m riding my cargo bike less now than in previous updates. That’s mostly because I started a new job at the University of Washington (I write software to analyze data collected from mass spectrometers), and my commute takes me across a floating bridge that has no bike lane. There are beautiful bike lanes on Seattle’s other floating bridge, but it’s a pretty long ride (about 3 hours round-trip!) Instead, I walk a couple of miles and take the bus.

That brings me to the title of today’s article. I now find myself using many different transporation options depending on trip distance, speed, and number of people accompanying me. The cargo bike is the most satisfying (definitely the most exhilirating!), but other modes have their place:

  • Walking works well for short distances without the overhead of locking the bike and worrying about its security.
  • The bus is a great time to catch up on podcasts and/or sleep!
  • Our solar-powered Leaf is only a small improvement in the sea of cars on our roads, but it’s handy when kids and gear need to be transported greater distances to music lessons and gymnastics practice.

If you’re wondering why I’m using your valuable time to enumerate my transportation choices, it’s because I think there’s virtue in choosing the right tool for the job. Although many Americans have a choice of options, most are content to use their cars for every trip. We have a car mono-culture, and like mono-cultures in agriculture or thought or politics, it’s fragile (vulnerable to swings in the price of oil), imbalanced in its use of resources, and frankly, it’s boring! It’s empowering to have freedom of choice when I need to get somewhere. Sitting in my single-occupant car in a traffic jam is the opposite of freedom.

I hope that the words I write here will help improve the world, and I’m encouraged by emails I’ve received from numerous people. But my actions have power as well. Many friends and neighbors have seen me riding my bike or walking to the bus stop, and suddenly the light dawns: “I could try that too!” One woman I know thought she might drive across town so she could get on the bus at my stop, just to see how it’s done. That first ride on public transportation is really that intimidating! I wish there were some way we could lower the barrier.

Making a choice at odds with the car mono-culture is simultaneously difficult and liberating.

Carrying a stroller on a cargo bike

There are a few options carrying a stroller on a cargo bike. The
simplest options is do without. Perhaps a sling will do. If the stroller
is to be used primarily on lightly used sidewalks, a bicycle with a
child on it could be pushed along instead.

Sometimes my wife would go shopping at the Farmer’s Market in this
manner, pushing a bakfiets through the market with the child on it:

rainy day farmer's market trip

I hope for the day when our local market is too crowded for that to be feasible.

Before I get to the solutions that do work, I’ll share one attempt at putting a stroller on a bakfiets that didn’t work:

Continue reading Carrying a stroller on a cargo bike

Video: Bakfiets winter ride with baby

This nicely produced video by Teppo Moisio in Finland highlights a bakfiets being used to carry baby warmly and safely on a winter day:

If you can’t get enough the bakfiets baby cuteness, there’s another video after the jump showing off the weather canopy also keeps children dry on rainy day rides.

Continue reading Video: Bakfiets winter ride with baby

Who Stole Our Snow? Weather Now Carries Accountability

Preventing extreme weather is a moral issue that requires our individual concern and lots of electric cargo bikes.

Melting snow reveals warm railroad ties hidden beneath the rails-to-trails path near my house.
Melting snow reveals warm railroad ties hidden beneath the rails-to-trails path near my house.

This winter Ithaca has had an unsettling lack of snow. We’re lucky: the main consequence is simply a lackluster ski season here. My sister in Amherst Massachusetts has had a bit more excitement: they’ve had a freak ice storm on Halloween, a hurricane, a tornado, and an earthquake. Yikes.

Global warming causes extreme weather. And global warming is in turn caused by humans. Yet news media still seem to be treating weather events as if they were acts of God, arbitrary and beyond our control. People say “That darn weather blew away my barn! But what can you do?” instead of “You people and your pollution wrecked my barn!”. There is no one to sue as there was with the Gulf oil spill. Because oil is visible and sticky and smells bad we can easily accept that the Gulf oil spill wrecked the shrimp industry in Louisiana. But because the CO2 that causes global warming is widespread and transparent, we can’t as easily see that the “CO2 spill” coming from our tailpipes is similarly wrecking ecosystems all over the planet.

It may have been true a hundred years ago that weather events were solely natural phenomena, but this is no longer the case. Weather is now man-made. Humans are accountable for the weather. When I saw the empty muddy ski trails around Ithaca this winter I thought Continue reading Who Stole Our Snow? Weather Now Carries Accountability

Choosing to ride a bike in the winter

.

The morning my four year old daughter had a choice to ride on a bike for 3 miles in the cold and snow, or ride in the car. She chose the bike, and we had a comfortable ride over to church. When we arrived I asked if anything was cold. She said her ankles were a little cold– she was wearing anklets instead of full-height socks, and some cold air got on them. That would be easily solved with proper socks in the future.

I have some hope that if children can get beyond the excuse that “it’s too cold to ride”, then perhaps some adults can get over it as well. Biking for transportation in the winter can be great way to fit in some exercise, when it’s otherwise not as enticing to be outside.

For another great post on the topic of kids and choosing to ride in the winter, see this post entitled “There’s No Such Thing….as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” by Sara at Full Hands.

Hauling couches by bike

Couches are fun to haul by bike.

couch by bike
.

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 hunting: riverside break

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.

new bikes-at-work trailer

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
without strain.

another alley couch and loveseat liberated
.

Hauling a couch and loveseat to the dump.
.

Weather canopy options for cargo bikes

A weather canopy for your children can make a big difference in your child’s comfort on the bike during rainy, cold or windy conditions.

The most iconic canopy option is the weather canopy for a bakfiets seen in the featured image above.

 

However, if you have a longtail cargo bike like an Xtracycle or Yuba Mundo, there are some DIY options worth knowing about, with detailed instructions available online.

I love the look the Covered Bike Wagon canopy by co-blogger Larry Clarkberg:

bike canopy side view

You can read more about how he made the covered bike wagon canopy and he can answer questions about it in the comments. His variation with solar panels is also worth a look:

solar bicycle

There’s more about this project at My Solar Bicycle. Most recently I spotted this solution for sun and rain production for a Yuba Mundo:

It’s not quite iconic but it gets the job done, and instructions are available online.

Yet another option to check out the Tiny Helmets Sun Hoods

You can also read more about the differences between the bakfiets, Xtracycles and the Yuba Mundo.

Taking the kids out to dinner

Tonight my wife rode our two kids out to dinner in the bakfiets. The 9 month old baby rides in a rear-facing car seat, while the 4 year old sits on the bench seat. The target restaurant was in a mall parking lot off a busy road, about 3 miles away. However, with a bit of research and experimentation, we found a back way into the mall that is only a bit further and is much lower traffic. We even got to see a rabbit!

I rode along on our electric Yuba Mundo with the requisite parenting gear. The trip was a great way to combine some exercise, family time and transportation.