Carrier cycles, box bikes, cycle trucks, freight bikes or freight tricycles are some of the other common names that cargo bikes are known by. These bikes are human powered vehicles which were originally designed and constructed for transportation of goods. The designs of these bikes feature a cargo area that is either enclosed or open in nature. It can even be a flat platform or in the form of a wire basket mounted over both or just either of the wheels. This cargo area can also be at a low level, just behind the front wheel of the bike or between the two parallel wheels either in the front or the rear area of the bike. The drivetrain and frame of the bike are constructed in a manner that the bike can handle much larger loads compared to normal bicycles.
The early cargo bikes were used by every day tradesmen who would deliver milk, bread, mail and other things on them. Furthermore, the cargo bikes of those days used to be heavy-duty version of the standard bicycles, fitted with heavy carriers either on the rear or front end of the bikes, and often used to sport a smaller front wheel for accommodating a large carrier on the front.
If you visit United Kingdom, you may still possibly see some of these bikes, which are commonly referred to as delibike or butcher’s bike. The UK Post Office owns by far the largest fleet of cargo bikes in the present times, and refers to them with a more formal name ‘porteur bicycle’.
With the introduction and domination of internal combustion engine, especially in the industrialized nations post-World War II, the usage of cargo bikes became less and less popular. The rest of the world nevertheless continued manufacturing and using these bikes. During the 80s era in Europe, and 90s in the US, a number of environmentally-conscious designers and some small-scale manufacturers collaborated to revive the usage of cargo bikes in day-to-day lives of people.
Some common uses of cargo bikes
Cargo bikes can be used for all sorts of purposes including:
– Transportation of trade tools, specifically in the context of large installations like power stations etc.
– For cargo handling operations at airports.
– For delivery services in densely populated urban regions.
– For transportation of children. Interestingly, almost 90% of all cargo bikes sold in Amsterdam are utilized for transportation of children.
– For mail delivery. UK Post Office has a fleet of around 33,000 cargo bikes, which it actively employs for mail delivery operations.
– For transportation of warehouse inventory.
– For food vending in areas that attract high foot traffic, especially for the purpose of vending ice creams.
It is commonplace to use cargo bikes in Amsterdam for moving one’s belongings, promote new products or for simply having a small party in a park!
The popular furniture retailer IKEA has also been testing the efficacy of cargo bikes rental program, allowing the Copenhagen residents to easily transport their new purchases.
Owing to strong economic advantages delivered by the widespread revival of cargo bikes, Oxfam has gotten itself involved in designing of OxTrike (a type of cargo bike) and has begun local level production at various community workshops operating in non-industrialized nations, for local usage in all those countries.