Why Not Nice Ride Cargo Bikes?

crowdsource-logoNote: This post is part of the streets.mn/Nice Ride crowdsource conversation, a series of crowdsourced looks at how to expand or improve Nice Ride planning. Check out the rest here.

Part of the streets.mn and Nice Ride crowdsourcing project was to help identify “new tools and approaches” that Nice Ride should explore to make it easy for more people in Minnesota to choose active transportation. Until now, my thinking about this project has been solely about biking (which makes a certain amount of sense, since it is Nice Ride, after all!). But what if the focus shifted to a broader view of active transportation instead of the more narrow focus on just bikes? What if we included walking as part of the equation?

cargo bike ottawa

Cargo bikes in Ottawa, Canada.

One idea I abandoned was about new kinds of bikes. We’re all familiar with the wonderful green upright comfort bikes, but what about people who feel more at ease on something more forward, like a road bike or even a mountain bike? Or people who would love to have access to a cargo bike? Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with a round-trip or point-to-point scenario that worked without a really dense station grid, so I let this idea rest.

But then (as ideas are wont to do), it popped back into my head–what if people walked a short distance to a station that had a small number of dedicated cargo bikes (that were capable of docking exactly like the comfort bikes) and was located immediately adjacent to a place from which we all haul cargo? Let’s put a Nice Ride station with 3-5 cargo bikes in the parking lot of a grocery store! People who live within walking distance can walk there, do their grocery shopping, check out a bike to haul their groceries home, then return the bike and walk back home! Active transport!

This could be extended somewhat by using other modes to arrive at the grocery store (probably bus or LRT), but it would likely be limited to a relatively short distance (say, 3-5 mile round trip?).

It could also be extended by using something like a Bob trailer where the single wheel is what docks into the station and the front has an easy-to-use connection point that could connect to the comfort bikes. Modular.

Before I got too far into the cargo bike idea, another idea popped into my head and displaced the cargo bike with something a little faster. What if a gym or community center had a small fleet of “recreation” bikes (flat handlebars, narrower tires, maybe a seven-speed hub instead of three speeds, etc.) in the station in their parking lot and those bikes could be checked out by visitors to the gym? Riders could take a bike out on the adjacent trail, get their workout in, and return it back to the same station (load balancing!) and not have to use a stationary bike indoors!

So, maybe if there were more styles of Nice Ride bikes in addition to the comfort bike, people could be enticed to try biking!

10 thoughts on “Why Not Nice Ride Cargo Bikes?

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    I’d use a Nice Ride cargo bike. I could even see riding my bike to the store, shopping, grabbing the cargo bike to get stuff home and then returning it to the station at the store and riding my bike home.

    1. Cobo

      I doubt that many private health clubs would offer loaner bikes for the same reason a bank doesn’t sell food, its very different than the core competency of the business and would require additional infrastructure.

      Besides if the person borrowing the bike got a taste for cycling they would buy a bike and go to the gym less and downgrade to a cheaper gym that they only use in winter (what I did). So it might ultimately loose an expensive private club business..

      I could see it working for a community center though, since the work out facilities are just a small part of what they provide.

  2. Monte Castleman

    I don’t know. I’ve never been to a health club, but I assume people riding stationary bicycles there are doing so because of the advantages of them- out of the heat, cold, and rain, secure location without traffic, able to watch your favorite TV show, etc, and opposed to a separate bicycle ride you’re restricted to the area that happens to be around the health club. If there was a demand for loaner bicycles you’d probably see some health clubs offering them as an amenity.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      Demand is a funny thing. People weren’t demanding personal computers but when offered they lapped them up. People weren’t demanding iPods or iPhones or many other things that have become popular.

  3. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Great post.

    Many stores in The Netherlands have cargo bikes (typically bakfiets but sometimes trikes or 4-wheelers) for rent, or free use with purchase. Folks will ride their own bike to the store, haul stuff home in the bakfiets, and then ride back to retrieve their bike.

    1. Rosa

      I would end up doing that so often. I always buy more than I intended to, if I’m on a limited-cargo bike, and end up riding home with a plastic bag hanging from my handlebars or something bungee’d onto the back rack precariously.

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