A smiling dog sits in a cargo bike bucket with bags of mulch.

Dogs by Bike

About five years ago, my family went down to one car. We got rid of our two very old vehicles due to problems and cost and bought a newer used car. My spouse had the more difficult commute, and so I found myself thrust further into the world of transit and biking. Getting groceries is pretty straightforward. There are also plenty of resources on how to get started biking to work. But then there is Holly.

A dog wearing a shark costume looks at the camera.
Holly as a shark. Photo by Mike Allen

Holly is our senior beagle-mix. When we first adopted her a decade ago, we lived near Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, and so rain or shine it was only a couple-blocks-long walk to St. Paul Pet Hospital. Furthermore, she has separation anxiety. At one job, I would bring her to work every day so she would nap instead of howl for hours. Heck, sometimes I would just need to bring her along because I like her company.

We eventually moved to the east side. I couldn’t bring Holly to work anymore. If we weren’t driving, Holly had to stay home. The vet was pretty far to walk even in perfect conditions. One day a schedule conflict with my spouse’s work meant I was forced to get to the vet by bike, or attempt to punt the appointment to when our car was available. I was determined to make it happen by bike — and so Holly rode along in a canoe pack. It wasn’t very comfortable.

Later on, I learned about the Mutt Mover, a dog-specific backpack from Timbuk2. This made for much more comfortable trips for both Holly, who got a platform to sit on, and me, who got padded shoulder straps. Despite improvements, Holly still wasn’t really a fan.

A sad dog with puppy eyes has her head sticking out of a specialized backpack or carrying dogs.
Holly having so much fun she won’t even look at the camera. Photo by Mike Allen

I also was limited in what non-dog stuff I could haul. I was able to carry dog basics in the pocket of the bag, but I wasn’t about to test tucking party snacks into the main compartment with a beagle possessing a voracious appetite. Holly still spent plenty of time at home.

Finally, Holly’s fortunes changed with the impending arrival of our first child a couple years ago. With a child being born into an ever more harrowing climate crisis, I wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to have a fulfilling life without relying on a car for everything. Instead of a second car, we bought a cargo bike.

Late last fall, on a chilly morning, we retraced our original backpack trail with some serious comfort.

A dog wearing a coat sits in a cargo bike bucket looking at the camera.
Holly pondering her newfound luxury. Photo by Mike Allen

Holly doesn’t just go to the vet though. Now she can come along on errands, where she has a nice familiar place to sit and wait while I pop in to a store quick.

A dog sitting in a cargo bike outside is seen beyond the inside shelves of coffee tools for sale at a coffee shop.
Holly waits outside the coffee shop. Photo by Mike Allen

Rather than being at home she gets to come along, feel the wind in her ears on a group ride or chill out at a patio. She gets smiles from pedestrians when we roll on by, and pets waiting at the crosswalk. And when we get to our destination, she sometimes gets social media attention.

A dog sits smiling in a cargo bike bucket full of mulch bags.
Holly supervising a load of cargo from the local hardware store. Photo by Mike Allen

As with many cargo folks, Holly and I wish we would have gotten the bike sooner.

About Mike Allen

Mike is the Streets.MN Treasurer. He lives with his family on the East Side of Saint Paul, where he thinks about ways to replace car trips and what he forgot to get from the hardware store.