In recent years, the sight of a cargo bike gliding its way down a city cycle lane has become increasingly familiar, and for good reason. Usually laden with a myriad of children, boxes, pets, cargo bikes are incredibly hardworking, practical, and versatile bikes with the potential to revolutionise transport.
At its simplest, a cargo bike is a bicycle that allows you to carry cargo (or heavy loads) easily: this might be children or pets, your weekly shopping, furniture, your weekly veg box delivery, or anything else. Cargo bikes generally feature a longer wheelbase than a traditional bike, a sturdy frame and either a box or flatbed with rear or front-loading capacity.
With the rising popularity of electric bikes in recent years, electric-assist cargo bikes have become popularly adopted; cargo bikes have, in some instances, the ability to carry up to 250kg (opens in new tab) and so the additional help from a motor to tackle inclines when fully loaded is a welcome addition.
Cargo bikes are not a new phenomenon (opens in new tab), they’ve been around since the late 1880s, and might be recognisable as the ‘butcher bikes’ once spotted dropping deliveries in small rural areas and have been used pretty consistently as part of postal fleets. However, with the recent rise in fuel costs and the increase in concern around air pollution (opens in new tab), more people are turning to cargo bikes as an alternative (and more environmentally friendly) mode of transport – particularly for those in cities where access to a car might be uneconomical and a traditional bike too limiting for everyday activities. You don’t need a license to ride a cargo bike, and provided the top speed is under 15mph (25kw/h), electric cargo bikes are legal on British roads, making them particularly accessible for those without a driving license.
Brands such as Tern, Riese & Müller and Babboe are well-regarded for building high-quality and durable cargo bikes, while manufacturers such as Dahon are starting to venture into the cargo bike space with innovations such as their foldable cargo bike (opens in new tab).
What types of cargo bikes are there?
When we’re talking about a cargo bike, we’re typically speaking about mini cargo bikes, box-bikes, longtails or, perhaps less commonly, pedicabs. You may also recognise tricycles, which are often used in commercial settings (think ice cream bicycles!).
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