Cargobike problems include parking, startup time, space, weather, style, bollards, street repairs, leaves, curbs, security,safety and people. If you’re considering usnig a cargobike for kids transport, business or touring, read this list and think carefully about how you’re going to cope with each issue. To be honest, it’s a tough call. You’ll need the help of local politicians and planners, a wad of money, nerves and planning.
Before I tried an e-cargobike for the first time I was more positive than you could imagine. I had reasons to be buying at the fore of my thoughts and was encouraged by the sheer coolness of being slightly different. Today, after testing a number of cargobikes, I’m less positive. I would love a cargobike but unless I find see more incentives from my city, i’m not able to justify it.
Parking a cargobike
I’ve found that a cargobike can take up to three normal cycle spaces. The problem is the length of the bike and the space that was always designed for normal cycles. Bike ‘sheds’ become a problem. Supermarket cycle parking is worse. At Aldi I was forced to use three spaces so that I could par at an angle that wouldn’t leave my rear wheel on a pedestrian walkway.
This has started to annoy me. A 4500 Euro e-cargobike needs good security. On my last test I had three locks, a lock for the power pack and a removable ‘computer.’ In total the startup and parking times amount to about 12 minutes for a return journey. (3 minutes for each stage including gloves and helmet. Storing and carrying. Security and parking.) For journeys of less than 500 m it’s not worth it. A push-trolley would be quicker. More importantly, it’s annoying. Especially when it’s raining,
Cargobikes and Weather
All two-wheeled transport users have to battle with rain, wind and cold but a cargobike because even more akward in weather. You need to protect yourself and your load. Braking becomes much more difficult and, on the long-john bikes I tried, the front wheel feels like it will break away quickly under turn-braking. Obviously you can take more care if you’re aware of this but again, it takes more time and adds some stress. My rule: Don’t ride under 4 degrees Celsius.
Space for cargobikes
Cargobikes can be long. They can also be wide. Cycle infrastructure is generally not built with this in mind. Anyone that’s used a kids trailer will know this and it requires a lot of skill and spatial awareness. If you forget, you’ll end up catapulting yourself over the front of the handlebars. One extremely dangerous situation is the shared bike / pedestrian path. These paths, wide enough for cars, use bollards to stop cars getting access. The potential for injury here is huge. Visibility needs to be improved and there needs to be less use of metal!
There are some that will call a cargobike stylish. They are certainly attention-grabbing but overall, not so stylish when you consider the mess of straps, locks, covers and clothing needed. I used a cargobike to deliver audio / video services to a customer recently and felt somewhat ‘casual’ as I shook their hand. Be aware of this where presentation to customers is important.
Street repairs will often require the use of the side of the road for equipment. If there’s a pavement path, it will impact that too. Repairs on pathways are even worse because there’s no planning involved. If a water mains needs checking it will be done without any planning. I had to wait for two sewage inspectors recently to finish their job before they would replace a manhole cover that took up too much of the bike path. Temporary repairs and the quality of repairs on paths are terrible too. If you’ve got equipment that’s fragile, you might be better off on the road. Let’s not get into the subject of ‘temporary’ parking on bike routes because that’s a topic we all know about.
With a loaded bike curbs take on a new meaning. There’s no option to ‘hop’ a cargobike up one and even the dropped curbs become huge jolts of bone-shaking shock.
November is a nightmare. Leaves are cleared from roads (and often clear automatically because of the speed and rate of vehicles on them) but leaves on paths are left until they build up a nice squishy mess. That little front wheel on your long john cargobike is going to hate that under braking. BE CAREFUL.
The safety of you, your load and of other people is important to mention. A 200 KG bike traveling at 25 km/h needs thought. Again it’s the shared pedestrian / bike paths that are the worst. I’ve never used a bell as much as I did over the last week with a loaned Bullitt.
I’ve mentioned it above in relation to ‘time’ but I’ll mention it again so that I can include the obvious aspect of prevention of theft. Insurance won’t help you finish a delivery if your bike gets stolen and, believe me, a 4500 Euro bike that fits in the back of a white van, is attractive. Allocate at least 200 Euro for locks and consider a tracker and alarm system. Cargobike manufacturers need to be offering better security systems, but they don’t.
Got any more cargobike issues? Let us all know in comments. Have fun out there!