Funding schemes for cargo bikes
The Zero Emissions Network (ZEN) in London, which is a collaboration between Islington, Tower Hamlets and Hackney Borough Councils, has been running for a number of years. It works with local businesses to help fund cycle parking and offer grant schemes to help businesses switch from scooters and motorbikes to cargo bikes. And in September 2018, the government announced £2 million in funding for commercial electric cargo bikes as part of a green last mile initiative. But currently, no schemes or funds are coming from government to encourage families to take on a cargo bike.
“There are subsidies on electric cars, but why not cargo bikes,” asks Stredwick. She agrees that the willingness to push cargo bikes as a viable mode of transport for families simply hasn’t existed. But she remains optimistic that things are changing and the willingness is starting to come through. To make a cargo bike purchase more viable, customers could make the most of the Cycle to Work scheme, which operates on a salary-sacrifice model. More and more bike retailers are offering finance these days too. However, it would be useful for local councils to offer funding schemes to help encourage uptake in their areas as part of a wider transport plan.
Electric is a game changer
When I decided on my cargo trike, there was no question in my mind that I’d need electric assist. There are a few big hills in my area, with one big dip on the way to my child’s school. The electric assist on my Christiania makes all the difference: it kicks in as soon as I start pedalling and I can usually get up to a good coasting speed of around 15 miles an hour. Getting up a long steep hill isn’t a problem, even with a full load.
Stredwick emphasises how much electric assist motors are changing the landscape of cycling. From my own experience, since owning my trike, people are really interested in the electric assist, older people in particular, and Stredwick confirmed to me that the uptake of electric bikes by older members of the community in places like Amsterdam has really helped to keep people mobile and active. The health benefits of cycling are immense but steep hills and long slogs can put people off. Electric can make what would have been physically demanding, almost effortless. And as for the families among us, children only get heavier and you’ll only get older, which makes electric a must.
Considerations when choosing a make and model
In deciding on a cargo bike, the first thing you might think about is whether you want a two-wheeler or a three-wheeler: a bike or a trike. Two-wheelers will generally be more stable once you’re up and running. A three-wheeler, whilst very stable when it’s stationary or pootling along at a leisurely pace, isn’t generally as stable at higher speeds. Turning corners takes a bit of practice and steep descents should be taken with care.
Stredwick stocks a number of cargo bike and trike models at Carry Me Bikes. One make is Bakfiets.nl from the Netherlands, which she describes as being really solid and well made but not over the top. Other brands include the Babboe, which is a bit more affordable, but still high quality, and the Nihola, which features a strong plastic front box and different steering mechanism, which makes for perhaps a more intuitive ride. Also check out the School Run Centre for a range of options.
For more information when considering a cargo bike purchase, you can read Stredwick’s in-depth guide for Cycling UK.