December 6, 2013

Cargo bikes the new minivan for cycling families

The people-powered transportation works for schlepping kids to school, hauling groceries or running errands, advocates say.

Associated Press

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Heidi Lappetito pedals her cargo bike while making a delivery of frozen salmon into Port Townsend, Wash. Nearly all deliveries of the wild Pacific salmon the Cape Cleare Fishery makes to its local customers is done by cargo bikes hauling loads of up to 180 pounds, about five miles into town. People in the Pacific Northwest are pushing the limits of what they can carry using so-called cargo bikes, shuttling children, groceries, fish and kegs of beer.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

People in the Pacific Northwest are pushing the limits of what they can carry using so-called cargo bikes, shuttling children, groceries, fish and kegs of beer. AP Photo

As for safety, Carlson said she bikes slowly and defensively and sticks to dedicated bike paths where possible. “I worry a lot more about accidents in the car,” she said.

Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, said he hasn’t seen studies on cargo bike safety, but “most of them seem very stable.” He added: “From what I’ve seen, not from scientific evidence, they seem like a pretty reasonable solution for carrying kids.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommends not taking infants under a year old on bicycles. It says children should ride in a bicycle-towed child trailer, wear helmets and be strapped in. It warns of risks of serious injury when carrying a young child on a bike.

Delivering salmon by bike has been good publicity for Rick Oltman, whose company bikes can be spotted in Port Townsend, Wash., near Seattle.

“People wave. We have huge fan clubs,” said Oltman, owner of Cape Cleare Fishery. “It’s not to save the world. It’s mostly that we enjoy bicycling. My butt was getting flat sitting in a white van and I didn’t want to do that anymore.”

Carlson’s enthusiasm has caught on. Two friends have bought similar cargo bikes and have started riding.

“Sometimes just seeing one person do it plants a seed,” she said.

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