I met a builder last summer who built a near-identical bike when I did a story on 'haulers' for a community newspaper I write for. I've copied the story here for your interest:
Cargo? Don’t Go Get The Car
Need to pick up a load of lumber for a small renovation project? Deliver several heavy cans of paint? Put in a new garden and need to get your plants, seed bags and equipment home? You’re going to need a pickup, SUV or van, right? Wrong.
If you’re a downtowner, you know what a hassle it is maneuvering through narrow one-way streets and finding parking for behemoth vehicles. More and more downtowners: handymen, painters, gardeners, landscapers, artists and tradesmen as well as regular shoppers are turning to bicycles. But not just any bicycles. They’re turning to haulers. These are bicycles that turn heads, make folks stop and stare, point and gape. But, boy, can these bikes haul!
A few local manufacturers of cargo-bikes and trailers were featured last month at the second Toronto Bike Committee Hauler event at Scadding Court in the Bathurst and Dundas area to encourage people to use bicycles to move goods in the city. Steven Gray from the UofT bicycle choppers organization http://bicyclechoppers.sa.utoronto.ca/
proudly showed off his latest wonder; a bright green three-wheeler with a shopping cart basket mounted in front that he has dubbed the Shopper Chopper. The Bike Pirates, a good-natured, but serious group of anti-car activists who salvage discarded and trashed bikes and teach kids how to repair and build their own bikes brought a trailer completely constructed out of materials and components others had thrown away. Eugene Yao from The Urbane Cyclist displayed one of their brand-new Dutch Bakfiets cargo-bikes (http://www.bakfiets.nl/eng/)
. As the only local retail store carrying the $2,800.00+ bike with the fold-down seat designed for carrying one or two kids with harnesses or a full load of groceries, Yao’s shop believes the Bakfiets compliments the other eight trailers they sell and, in fact, can be used in tandem with them.
Unlike the Bakfiets model, most of the bikes featured at the event were custom-made and stretch from eight to twelve feet long. They can be even longer with a trailer and they can go where many trucks can’t and shouldn’t go: into narrow laneways and onto lawns and into parks without damaging the grass.
Welding a sturdy cargo-bed to the front of a steel-framed used bike and constructing a nimble lever-system for steering, ordinary bikes that might have otherwise been abandoned, scrapped or collecting dust in a garage somewhere are transformed into utilitarian working bikes that can not only go almost anywhere in the city, but don’t use so much as a drop of expensive gas.
Manuel Cappel has been building cargo-bikes now for the past number of years after starting with standard, box-like trailers and his latest design incorporates a seat with storage underneath and arm-rests directly forward of the handlebars. Capable of carrying several hundred pounds, the bike seems a little unwieldy at first. Manuel assures that when the bike is adjusted for the rider and fitted with quality components, it’s manageable, comfortable and useful.
A number of visitors couldn’t resist taking the bikes out for a test-ride and while it took some getting used to, the reviews were positive. Manuel offers made-to-order trailers or cargo bikes with the trailers starting at about $500.00 and bikes at $1,500.00. Putting it into context, that’s about two to three months worth of gas for an SUV or pickup truck.
And creative? Oh, they’re creative. One bike sports an old steel alarm bell as a warning device operated by pulling a lever to sound the very loud ringer that sounds suspiciously like a streetcar bell. He also had a parade trailer replica of one of the island ferries.
Manuel and some of the other manufacturers told of clients who are lawn-care specialists who manage to haul their lawn-mowers, gas trimmers and rakes in their trailers while other customers are delivery persons, sculptors, custom clothing designers, upholsterers and repairmen. They all had unique needs and uses for their cargo-bikes and custom trailers, but they shared one common concern for the environment. And, of course, in the long run, they all saved money on gas, parking, insurance and licensing, oil-changes and filter replacements.
According to the CAA, it would cost more than $5,000 per year to own and operate a van driving only 12,000 km of downtown city driving. It doesn’t require a CPA to conclude that there’s an immediate 50% savings in the first year with subsequent years realizing a 100% savings.
While most of us wouldn’t require something as elaborate as a cargo-bike, perhaps only saddle-bags or a secured milk-crate, the Toronto Bike Committee conducted a workshop showing how to construct cheap, effective plastic bucket panniers for any bike equipped with a rear carrier. Another workshop demonstrated how to build your own trailer and yet another workshop offered advice and resources for starting a bicycle-based business in Toronto.
As if to illustrate, Merchants of Green Coffee showed off their custom hauler used to deliver their product and the Green Gardeners demonstrated how versatile the bikes are with an entire garden’s worth of plants packed into or hung from their bike.
Cargo bikes are a part of a fringe culture in North America often referred to as Freak Bikes where hand-made customs are pretty much the only means of acquiring a bike that can haul goods and equipment. In Europe and, particularly, Holland, such bikes are very common and a number of respected bike manufacturers offer a wide variety of models.
While child-trailers are familiar here, in Europe, child-trailers and passenger-bikes are everywhere. Some carry up to seven children comfortably and safely. One visitor to the Toronto Hauler event already has one of the Bakfiets cargo bikes and has added an additional child-carrier behind the rider seat allowing his to transport three kids. Other cargo bikes are designed to carry everything from full-length ladders to kayaks. The possibilities are limitless.
For the generally pro-bicycle culture we enjoy downtown, cargo bikes and trailers are a practical, viable and efficient form of transporting goods and equipment. For more information, contact Manuel Cappel at 416-203-7717, Sean Wheldrake, Bicycle Promotions Coordinator, at 416-392-1143 or Steven Gray at the website noted above.