“Did you make that?” – it’s probably the comment I get most often when riding my cargo bike with my three-year-old son around Penticton.
As I touched on in my most recen tcolumn, my cargo bike is an extra-long
bicycle, with a large box between the handlebars and the front wheel of the bike. They are also sometimes referred to as a bakfiets, or “box bike” in Dutch.
When we originally bought the bike used from a family in Victoria they explained to us we should expect to give ourselves more time everywhere we went with it for all the questions people will ask when they see it.
This has turned out to be 100% true.
In addition to looking for diggers, backhoes, jobsites, and urban deer, the bike also provides a lot practical, real- world utility. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been using the bike to pick up groceries. I can easily handle a $200 grocery shop (the cargo capacity is around 200-250 pounds). I have given my friends rides on it.We used it to go to the library with 20 books to return. I have used it to buy a car battery when my less dependable transportation option needed it. I have used it many times to ride to the golf course with clubs. I also used it to get my propane tank refilled when my barbeque was out.
I illustrate these things to show how easily many car trips can be replaced by bike trips if barriers to cycling are eliminated. Possessing a bike that has a 250-pound cargo capacity certainly does that.
According to UCLA Professor Donald Shoup’s seminal 2005 book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” it is estimated that the average car spends over 95% of the time parked. My cargo bike cost me $1,175, a new tire, and a couple of tune- ups since I bought it over two years ago. The average cost of car ownership is around $10,000 per year. Although the cargo bike I have is 100% human powered, there are now many electric assist versions on the market which can be a true car replacement even for folks who live in traditionally very car dependent neighbourhoods.
If we are to make Penticton more livable, less car dependent, and in turn less expensive to our citizens, it is really important to think of what our city can be like if our streets encourage more people to cycle and walk.
Sure, not every trip can be made on a cargo bike. By the same token, a 10,000-pound truck that has the capacity to transport six people and pull a small house is not needed to grab a loaf of bread. But if there are no sidewalks, or incomplete sidewalks, and the intersections are extremely dangerous to walking and cycling should we be surprised when folks drive? Of course not.
Cycling, like walking, is a really inexpensive transport mode with enormous societal benefits. Let’s continue to take the important steps in Penticton needed to encourage more of it. Hopefully in turn we will see more people riding these really useful bikes around Penticton.
Matt Hopkins is a board member of the Penticton & Area Cycling Association and co-founder of the Penticton Bike Valet