It’s a bicycle that comfortably seats five, providing four of them are small children.
It’s called a cargo bike, although it’s more accurately a tricycle. There is one wheel on the back and two wheels on the front, one on either side of a large wooden box – the cargo hold.
With built-in benches and harnesses, the box can seat four small children. With the benches folded up it can be used for loads up to 100kg. Cargo bikes are designed to be an environmentally-friendly, heart-healthy form of neighbourhood transportation.
“It’s your bicycle pick-up truck,” says Shane Norris of RightBike, an Ottawa bike sharing service that has started renting out cargo bikes. “You could take your kids to daycare,” he points out. “You could get that big load of groceries. You could pick up top soil, compost...”
Cargo bikes are quite popular in Europe. They’re still something of a novelty in Canada. Upon trying one for the first time Meghan Smeek, a nanny for two small children, said, “I’ve seen bikes with the attachment at the back with kids. But I haven’t seen one on the front and it’s kind of a neat way to get around.”
It takes a few minutes to get used to riding a cargo bike. The turning radius is wider than usual. And the seat actually pivots when you turn. There are gears to help you peddle that heavy load uphill. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best driver, but I really enjoyed it,” says Amanda Anderson. “I think it would be awesome for putting groceries in.”
One drawback – they’re not cheap. Norris says the RightBike cargo bikes, built by the Dutch company Babboe, retail for around $3,200. RightBike offers them for a $15 daily rental.
RightBike has added three cargo bikes to its fleet of rental bikes. The service is based out of Hintonburg in West Ottawa. Norris says that, by the end of this biking season, they’re hoping to expand the service across the downtown core and into Vanier.
RightBike is a member of Causeway, a group of community-based not-for-profit ventures offering training and employment to the disadvantaged.