In livable, human-scale cities, a lot of cargo can be moved more efficiently by bike. The EU is funding a pilot project called CycleLogistics to collect data on just how effectively human powered cargo can be scaled up. With modest electrical assistance, loads can scale up to as much as 250 or even 500 kg, and stay human scale. It’ll be very interesting to see the results.
Tips on How to do a Bike Move from Déménagement Myette, a commercial bicycle moving company in Montreal. They have a whole fleet of extra wide Bikes at Work cargo trailers, that carry standard household appliances with ease! More than 1000 bike moves done since 2008.
In Genoa, Italy a radioactive cargo container appeared. Nobody knew where it had come from, or where it was going, or what was in it. It took a year to get rid of it. It’s as if a pixel got stuck on, in the real world, not the digital world. I have to imagine given how automated the container transshipping is in some ports, that you could almost treat the insertion of something like this as a software problem. You just have to get a truck to pick it up without knowing who you are, or what you’ve loaded, and from there the 20 ton packet of reality moves, guided by a disembodied digital hand.
Buying in bulk, you can get 4 gallon rectangular recycled buckets for about $4 each. They make great durable, waterproof panniers with a little bit of extra hardware. Obviously, if you can find them locally for free… that works too!
After I got done moving all my stuff into Masala, I had to return the trailer to Community Cycles. Tim needed to work on his bike (and renew his membership…) so I gave him a lift out to the shop. The Bikes at Work trailers aren’t really meant for hauling people… but with a capacity of 300lbs, they’re certainly capable of it. I’d really like to have a decent setup for moving another bike around without the trailer. A way to just hook the front end of the rear bike up to my rear rack, allowing it to roll on its own. More photos below.
My friend Bryan, with whom I’ve been living for the last year, is heading off on a round-the-world bike ride for an indeterminate amount of time. So I had to find a new place to live. The Masala Co-op had a summer sublet opening, and I jumped at it. I used to be on the board of the Boulder Housing Coalition, which owns Masala (and Chrysalis, another co-op downtown), and I lived here for the summer of 2004, before heading to Baja to kayak that fall. And of course… I was determined to do the move by bike.
My friend Kerry is putting in some fruit trees, and we decided to make a trip out to the CreekSide Tree Nursery on 61st St. near Pearl by bike to pick the first of them up. It’s fun to serve as a kind of “proof by existence”. Look, I’m doing it, and I’m smiling, so it’s possible, and it’s okay. The tree probably weighed 25 kg (50 lbs) and so did the trailer, which even when added to the weight of my bike, is less than my own mass. Just avoid any serious hills if you can, make sure you’ve got some low gears, and maybe have a snack afterward. I think 3-4 trees this size would have been totally doable, but then I probably would have broken a sweat!
In our recent survey of Boulder bicyclists, one of the most common reasons people cited for not biking more was that they have too much stuff to carry. Based on the photo bicycle counts I’ve done around town, I suspect a lot of people find the idea of carrying cargo daunting because they’re trying to do it in a backpack — backpacks and messenger bags are far and away the most common kind of cargo I see, with baskets and panniers a distant second place, and hardly any trailers or dedicated cargo bikes. It’s not the weight so much that makes riding with cargo challenging — even heavily loaded, your bike and cargo will generally weigh much less than you do. Touring in Wyoming recently, heavily loaded, my bike weighed in at about 90 lbs.
One of my fellow travelers (above), weighing in at under 100 lbs herself rode a bike that weighed 75 lbs. We’re not heroic athletes. We didn’t train. You just go slow and make the weight as comfortable and stable as you can, and it’s all good.
A week’s worth of groceries for 2 people doesn’t come close to being that much stuff. If you’re shopping for a larger household then sure, you might have to go more than once a week, but this isn’t really a big hassle. In Europe it’s common for people to go shopping nearly every day, even if they’re driving. It just becomes part of the routine, and it’s fine. Pleasant even. How often do you end up going out for that one little thing you forgot to grab anyway, even when you try and plan ahead?
My around-town bike has a rear rack that I use panniers on, and a front platform rack. Sometimes people see it and comment on what a burly cargo bike I’ve got… but I think this is a very reasonable amount of capacity to have on hand at all times around town. I definitely think of it as a city bike, not a cargo bike. It will happily get me home with 50 lbs of food and sundries, with the weight split between the front and back ends. I ride at a leisurely pace, and arrive home comfortably and generally without breaking a sweat, which certainly wouldn’t be the case if I took my backpacking pack shopping instead.
I was happy to discover a trick recently that makes the shopping experience even easier. It’ll work with most panniers which attach to the rack via hooks at the top. You just pretend that the edge of your shopping cart is a bike rack, and hook the panniers on there for checkout:
This makes it quick and easy to pack the bag inside the store, in a way that will work for riding, instead of doing it all again outside, or having the bagger pack for you (which never seems to go well, unless they bike too), and it makes it clear that you’re using your own bag from the get go, so you don’t have to have the “Oh, I don’t need a bag” back-and-forth, which is nice. Then you can either just lift the pannier off at the door and leave the cart behind if your bike is nearby, or you can wheel all the way out to your ride, and simply lift the pannier off the cart and onto your rack.
Another feature which I can’t recommend highly enough for utilitarian cycling is a no-nonsense kickstand. Something that can hold your bike upright even when it’s fully loaded. No scraping up your bike on walls or railings, no precarious toppling load, just a bike that can take care of itself, like a grownup:
The Sperm Bike in Copenhagen has to be seen to be believed. It’s a cryogenic dewar, on a long-john style cargo bike, shaped like a giant spermatozoon, used for transporting semen samples from donors to fertility banks around town. No, really, it is! How long until we get one of these in Boulder?
Finally, somebody is making long-john style bucket bikes (bakfiets) in the US! That someone is CETMA. The frames come apart into two pieces so that they can be shipped at somewhat reasonable cost ($300) by ground carriers. Total cost for the frame, at your door: $2150. Eccentric bottom brackets for use with internally geared hubs. Disc brake tabs. Integrated platform allowing flat-bed or box-bike use. Looks pretty awesome.