5 Reasons Cargo Bikes Are the Perfect Mode of Transportation
With Americans driving less and more cities encouraging people to bike, the humble cargo bike has quietly gained traction in the U.S. Parents are pedaling their kids to school in front-loading "bakfiets" (or "box bike" in Dutch), and food vendors are zipping through traffic to deliver coffee and other goodies.
And while cargo bikes provide all the benefits of traditional bikes (reducing pollution, saving money, promoting health), cargo bikes have many pluses that typical two-wheelers don't, including ...
1. They (literally) move people
Think of them as pollution-free minivans that can carry much more than groceries. These guys can haul quite the load. Two-wheeled models can have a 400 pound load capacity and three-wheeled models can have a 500 pound load capacity, meaning there's certainly room for extra riders. So throw in a toddler or two, or even take a date out for a spin as Bike Calgary vice president Dale Calkins did:
On a little date with the lovely @LisaNCalkins. #yycbike #cargobike pic.twitter.com/rSlSfOFyar
— Dale Calkins (@DaleCalkins) February 24, 2015
And, yes, you can also transport pets.
2. They are incredibly customizable
The Atlantic's CityLab recently featured this solar-powered beauty from from Durham, N.C.-based Organic Transit. Their appropriately named ELF ("Electric, Light and Fun") bike, can go up to 30 miles per hour and comes with headlights, turn signals, a roof and plenty of cargo space. You'd think with all this hardware you'd need some kind of a license, but since it's legally a bike, ELF cyclers can peddle on bike paths or lanes and in any weather, the publication noted.
Organic Transit boasts that if their ELF is used in place of a car, it could prevent up to six tons of CO2 from spewing into the atmosphere each year. "There is nothing more polluting than driving our cars each day," company founder Rob Cotter said. "As individuals, we are limited as to what we can effectively implement, but we can change how we behave. Getting out of your car and using your body along with a solar assist is the most powerful thing you can do."
The design possibilities are endless. Creative minds are transforming cargo bikes from something very practical and utilitarian into versatile art. Check out this rocket cargo bike from a London bike show ...
Here's Chris from @rocketsnrascals - we reckon he quite likes our #Rocket #Londonbikeshow #cargobike pic.twitter.com/jPkUW9cRW6
— Boxer Cycles (@BoxerCycles) February 15, 2015
... as well as this whimsical home-built bakfiet that its young riders surely love.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cargo-Bike! via /r/aww http://t.co/gwpduUdkPi #Cute #Animals #aww #pics #Pets pic.twitter.com/wliqaN0sP7 — UPBEAT + (@upbeatstories) January 31, 2015
And while the idea of riding such a lumbering bike might make some quads tremble, this three-wheeled ride from Butchers & Bicycles can whip around turns with the speed and agility of standard cruisers.
3. Food on the go, minus the fumes
Speaking of customizable, we recently took a look at the booming food bike craze, detailing how on-the-go kitchens are selling everything from popsicles to grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, food bikes are vulnerable to erratic weather, but at the same time, because they don't rely on gas, food bikes are of course free from harmful emissions and pollutants. In fact, for every one mile pedaled rather than driven, about one pound of CO2 is saved.
Another advantage to vendors? Cargo bikes are also immune to road congestion and can park right outside of buildings for efficient delivery. As Charlie Wicker of Trailhead Coffee Roasters in Portland told NPR, “On a bike, you’re basically impervious to traffic jams. I can calculate my delivery time down to the minute.”
4. It's another encouragement to ditch the car
National trends indicate a decline in driving thanks in part to the proliferation of transportation apps, vehicle and bike sharing programs, and cargo bikes adding to the growing list of green-transport options. As far as cost goes, cargo bikes range between $1,000 and $5,000. However, there are cheaper models from China that can be found on the market, as cargo bike owners Chris Bruntlett and Melissa Bruntlett noted on Grist. But considering how much you'd save on fuel, maintenance, taxes and insurance, the investment is really a drop in the bucket. The writers also suggested checking out peer-to-peer bike sharing site Spinlister.com to see if someone near you is renting out their cargo bike. Bike-friendly cities are also making it easier to own and park a relatively lumbering ride, such as this train station in Malmo, Sweden that has designated spots for cargo bikes.
Nihola #cargobike at impressive new Malmo train station bike park. http://t.co/ylLMAZkCwV @copenhagenize pic.twitter.com/QFgoFSrOMD
— K4RGO (@K4RGO) February 14, 2014
5. They fuel social and environmental change
Cargo bikes would definitely make your own commute much more eco-friendly, but they are also bringing positive changes to developing communities. As we previously reported, the winner of this year's Sustainia Award was Wecyclers from Lagos, Nigeria with their fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles that pick up, collect and recycle garbage in low-income neighborhoods. Their initiative also enables people in low-income communities to make money off of the unmanaged waste piling up in their streets, where overburdened municipal governments collect only 40 percent of city garbage.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.