Thanks to their ability to carry heavy loads and bypass traffic, cargo bikes are gradually becoming a regular sight in our towns and cities. We spoke to some converts about how they have adopted a cargo bike into their work and everyday life.
Cargo bikes come in a variety of sizes and designs to suit different needs. ©Sustrans
What is a cargo bike?
Essentially, cargo bikes are cycles that have been specially designed for carrying passengers and heavy or large items.
They usually look like a regular cycle but with a container or platform on the front or back.
They come in a variety of sizes and designs depending on what it’s going to be used for, such as tricycles, bucket feature or trailer options for standard cycles.
Cargo bikes can also be electrically assisted with motors that help you when you pedal so that you can go up hills more easily or travel longer distances.
What can cargo bikes be used for?
Cargo bikes have long been used to replace bikes and cars for many journeys.
The electric battery has made it easier for business deliveries as well as people wanting to reduce their car use and make healthier, happier and more sustainable everyday journeys.
According to the City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025, 17% of families in Copenhagen own a cargo bike.
They are especially used for transporting children and shopping, and a quarter of all cargo bike owners say that their cargo bike is a direct replacement for a car.
The electric battery has made it easier to transport children and heavy, bulky items. ©Sustrans
The benefits of using cargo bikes
Cargo bikes are particularly well suited to our cities and towns, where they can replace short journeys made by couriers in vans or commuters in their car.
Cargo bikes help to reduce congestion caused by motor traffic, making our places safer, cleaner and more enjoyable to spend time in.
Many e-cargo bikes can carry loads of up to 100kg, sometimes more.
They are a great way for families to reduce the number of trips they need to make in the car, save money on fuel, and get around in a healthier and more sustainable way.
Businesses can benefit from using cycling infrastructure to avoid congestion and cycling door to door rather than relying on parking.
We spoke to people across Scotland about their experiences with their cargo bike.
Andy rents a cargo bike to take his children out to explore the local surroundings. ©Michael Kelly/Sustrans
Andy Daneil, Edinburgh
It’s a stress relief for me so I can bring my family out, especially my kids, so it’s something that makes my relationship with my children closer.
Usually we go cycling to Musselburgh so it’s very good and we can connect with nature.
We’ve been using the electric [cargo] bike, you use less of your energy because you have extra weight with children, so it’s really good and really helpful.
We always rent it for family recreation so it’s nice to have time with my kids.
I really advise others to make some time to rent a bike, so you can have time together with your family.
It really brings your family closer together.
A cargo bike has proven useful for Paul's work as a roads inspector, saving him time and energy. ©Paul Garside
Paul Garside, Inverness
As a roads inspector for Highland Council, I use the [cargo] bike for local site meetings, investigating enquiries and defect reports from the public, and the footway inspection in the city centre.
It has large panniers in which I stow my Toughbook, phones, and basic tools I use for inspections.
I still use the van for the bulk of my tasks, but I’m always looking for opportunities to take the bike instead.
It’s made the footway inspection quicker, as walking the six miles or so route would often need a second day.
Some parts still have to be walked, but the long sections either side of the river can be effectively surveyed in a fraction of the time it would take on foot.
I like it that I can ride this all day and get good exercise, while the motor assisting on hills means I’m never over-exerting myself.
I’m getting a steady workout and maintaining a consistent speed.
It’s a lot more enjoyable than driving around the city, contending with traffic and trying to find a parking spot.
The team is taking part in an e-cargo bike pilot with a view to replacing more traditional forms of business travel across the Council’s workforce.
Hazel has swapped her car for a cargo bike, which she says comes in handy for everyday tasks. ©Michael Kelly/Sustrans
Hazel Darwin-Clements, Edinburgh
At the time of deciding whether to get a cargo bike, I was really worried about the climate emergency.
We had been using the car less and less and feeling guilty when we did.
It took about a year then to realise we just didn't need a car at all anymore and to sell it, and I am so grateful for all those things that led to where we are now.
We use the bike every day for everything from shopping, dropping off the kids, picking friends up from the station, family outings, food rescue volunteering - I even moved a freezer recently.
Storage was an obstacle at first but now we’ve built a wee shed for the cargo bike.
The kids love the bike and all their friends want to have a go and get a lift home with us.
My advice is to try a few different models out, find one you like and just go for it.
I don't know anyone who has regretted it.