By Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change at Sustrans
Cycling is great. It's green, healthy and can be one of the quickest ways to get around. As with many types of bicycle, cargo bikes are a very popular alternative to cars in the cities and countries that we associate with great cycling habits, such as Holland and Denmark. While they may not be a common sight on UK roads yet, they are growing in popularity, with parents opting to swap the family car for a two-wheeled ride for more journeys.
Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change at sustainable transport charity Sustrans, tells us his top five reasons to swap the family car for a cargo bike.
1) Customisable to suit your needs
Cargo bikes, in particular the box-bike style, are ideal for transporting young children around. And, thanks to clever design and engineering, they can be very diverse and come in all different shapes and sizes. These include Boxbikes, which resemble something like a more-mobile wheelbarrow to almost stretch-like long-tail bikes that have extra space for passengers on the back. And, if you live in a particularly hilly area, there are a whole host of electric assisted models on the market. There also very practical and enable you to transport everything from children to food shopping and often have a similar storage space to a car boot.
2) Kind to your pocket
While the initial price of a cargo bike is quite steep – setting you back between £500 for a basic model and up to £4,000+ for a larger electric model – one advantage they have over any other form of transportation is the low cost of running and maintenance. Compared to cars, the difference is huge as you remove the need to buy expensive petrol and diesel fuel and avoid paying for parking and pesky road tax. The cost of maintenance will also remain low as long as you keep your bike in good nick. Regular checks, such as keeping tyres pumped, cleaning and oiling the chain, plus basic adjustments will prolong the life of your bicycle and cost as little as £350 per year for maintenance, labour and parts.
3) Help to create healthier and happier families
Being inactive is a serious threat to our collective health – research shows that keeping active can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by as much as 35 per cent and risk of early death by as much as 30 per cent*. Cycling is an easy and fun way to build exercise into your daily routine while also providing great bonding time with kids. This is because it provides parents with the opportunity to chat and play games as you're closer together on the bike. You don't often get this kind of interaction when you're driving in a car because you have to concentrate on the road and what you are doing more. Plus, instilling a love of active travel in children from a young age also has long-lasting benefits – as well as developing road awareness to encourage independent travel as a teenager, it can create good habits for an active adult life.
4) Environmentally friendly
Swapping the car for a cargo bike is not just good for your health but benefits your surroundings, as it reduces the number of damaging pollutants that are released into the atmosphere. This is crucial because air pollution is linked to 40,000 early deaths in the UK each year** and road transport is responsible for 80 per cent of the pollution where legal limits are being broken***. In addition, those who travel by car can experience pollution levels five times higher than those who cycle and three and a half times more than those walking the same route.
5) Hassle free journeying
Travelling by bike may seem intimidating at first, especially with little ones in tow, but it can result in a more relaxed journey. You'll be surprised by how many quiet roads or back streets there are in your area that you can travel on, allowing you to get from A to B without sitting in rush hour traffic. The National Cycle Network passes through the centre of every major town in the UK and over half of the population lives within their nearest route.
*British Heart Foundation, The Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour Report, 2017
**Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016
***Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Improving air quality in the UK: tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, 2015
Photo credits: 1 Livia Lazar; 2 Colin Hattersley