Carrying Copenhagen: the wonders of the cargo bike  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The LA Times has a post on cargo bikes in Denmark - Carrying Copenhagen: the wonders of the cargo bike.

The transportation of goods and children through an urban landscape is a universal need. In Copenhagen many our of citizens choose the self-propelled transport option and cycle to work, school and on errands.

On any given day you'll see people moving things about on their bikes. A ladder, a newly-purchased bean bag for the living room, heavy bags of groceries dangling from the handlebars. It's what we do.

In Copenhagen, however, we have our own version of the SUV. We call it 'ladcyklen' or 'the cargo bike'. Often there are goods too large or cumbersome for convenient bicycle transport and if you have a child or two or three, they have places to go and things to do and you are the one who has to get them there.

In Denmark the three-wheeled cargo bike is the vehicle of choice for moving things about and the cargo bike market here continues to enjoy steady growth. A cargo bike is a generic term for any bicycle that is designed to carry 'stuff,' whether it has two wheels or three.

The necessity for cargo bikes is as old as bike culture itself. Since the early part of the last century, cargo bikes have moved things around the city. A little sub-cultural group formed rather quickly in cities, namely 'svejerne'. They muscled their heavily-laden cargo bikes through the streets and were known for their rowdy tone and for whistling at girls. Half a century before the modern bike messengers.

My Dad was a messenger boy during World War II, fetching fruit and vegetables from the market and transporting them back to the green grocer's where he worked. The two most widespread bikes were the Long John and the Short John - or Chimney Sweep bike. Both designs are almost a century old.

Since then, the Danes have expanded their fleet of cargo bikes and there are currently a dozen or so different brands competing for a market share and Denmark has rightfully become the Cargo Bike Capital of the world.

It was in the early 1970's that the first cargo bike of the modern era was developed. It is called the Christiania Bike and named after an abandoned military area which became Europe's largest anarchist town. Large, chunky and functional, with a big box placed in front of the cyclist, the Christiania bike quickly became a generic name for cargo bikes in Denmark.

Inevitably, other brands started to pop up and today the list is long and it includes; Nihola, Sorte Jernhest [Black Iron Horse], Bellabike, Triobike, Esimex, Larry vs. Harry, Long John, Short John and Kangaroo Bike.

At any daycare in the city you'll see parents dropping off and picking up their kids in cargo bikes, with the cargo bays equipped with small benches to sit on. There's room for groceries, too. Deejays and musicians use cargo bikes for transporting gear, kindergartens have them for taking kids on outings and companies use them for moving goods about.

Amazingly, only about 40 percent of Copenhageners own cars, even though this is the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world. Sure, vehicles are taxed heavily but the reason is simply because we have the infrastructure in place for bicycles and we have a rather good public transport system. Even 50 percent of the citizens of Berlin do not own a vehicle, for the same reasons. Fifty eight percent of Copenhageners, when polled, say that they ride their bike because it is easy and fast. Only one percent say they do in order to help the environment. Basically, we're not environmentalists. We're just people who need to get around the city, like anywhere else.

1 comments

nice article and photo!!

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