The Cargo Bike: A Car Replacement

Meet Marmalade, my new bicycle.

After months of thought and research, I’ve decided to wean myself off of car culture and use a bike as a method of transportation.

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Goal: Ditch the minivan

I’ve been thinking all year about giving up my minivan (Yep, I blog about being Earth-friendly and I drive a minivan. We all have ways we can improve, right?), but as a suburban single parent with two small kids it’s daunting. After talking to other moms about their car-free lives with bikes and researching my options, I took the plunge and bought one.

Before this, I’d only been on a bike once in the last twenty years. I’m not really a “bike person”. I had no idea how to keep my balance, I’m not in great physical shape, I was clueless about biking etiquette, and I’m still a bit scared to do much riding on an actual road. But practice makes better and hopefully I’ll soon feel confident enough to get the kids it for a some errand runs.

A bike that can replace the car

This bike, which I named after my favorite toast topping (because marmalade is delicious), is a cargo bike with e-assist. Until I began my research, I had no idea this type of bicycle is quite popular with car-free families.

For those of you who aren’t bike savvy, like me:

Cargo refers to the style of bike. It’s sturdy and built to carry an extra heavy load, and this style often has a handy cargo rack on the back that can hold everything from a week’s worth of groceries to a huge bag of potting soil. It’s also great for carrying kids. As you can see in the picture above, I have two child seats attached to mine.

E-Assist means it has a battery-powered motor that gives the rider a bit of a boost while pedaling. This is dreamy if you live in hilly terrain, or plan on riding with a kid(s) on the bike, or carrying lots of stuff with you. I mean, you can totally go without e-assist if you want, and I’ll admire you from here, on my e-bike, because I’m no where near strong enough to haul my kids and all our stuff without a little help.

Different styles for different families

There are a few different styles of cargo bike, such as a box bike (this one is super cute). My decision was based heavily on what would fit into my apartment. But it’s worth knowing that there’s a style for everyone. If you have a baby, many box bikes are able to hold a carseat. If your kids are older, many of the longtail cargo bikes (like this one) have comfy seat option for kids to sit on the back. Since my kids are currently in their toddler and preschool years, and both are small for their ages, child seats with harnesses are a good fit for us. Once they outgrow them, we can take the seats off and switch to a new seat configuration.

Not just for car-free families

If car-free isn’t your thing, but you’d love to drive a little less and ride more, there are tons of people doing just that. This year I’ve had the chance to talk to many people who have added a cargo bike as a mode of transportation and use it for school runs, grocery shopping, getting to playdates and doctors appointments and so much more. Some have decided to sell their car because they’ve realized they can do everything they want with their bike, and some keep using their car for longer trips.

What about you? Do you use a bike for transportation? Send me an email because I’d love to hear about your experience!

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