Two Children and no Car? It works!
Cargo bikes are used every day by thousands of individuals all over Europe. Individuals who found in cargo bikes a great tool to make their everyday errands simpler and more efficient. At CCCB (CityChangerCargoBike), we call these individuals Local Heroes.
Our next local hero is Barbara Bär. Barbara is a mother of two children, 42 years old, and works as a translator in Brussels. Six years ago, she decided to exchange her family car for a cargo bike. With no regrets!
When Barbara sold her car, the streets of Brussels hadn’t seen many cargo bikes before. For Barbara and her family, this was a big step and a bit of an experiment.
Why did you decide to sell your car and buy a cargo bike?
“We sold our car six years ago. As we had quite a huge car, the insurance, the tax, and the parking space were very expensive. At some point, we realised that we don’t even use our car, we mainly go by public transport or bike, so it is just standing there the whole time: it has no use and costs a lot of money. After we sold it, we did notice that there was a transportation gap for grocery shopping or taking our kids to kindergarten. Finally, we started looking for alternatives. So we said, ‘let’s try something else’. At long last, an electric cargo bike seemed to be the perfect solution. And it worked! We never bought a car again. We have been car-free for six years, with two kids – a cargo bike is perfect for cities.”
What do you usually use your cargo bike for?
”When the kids were younger, I used it all the time. My son was one and my daughter five, so both of them fit in the cargo bike. It was perfect for everyday errands, and I could bring my kids to almost all of their activities. Now that both kids have grown out of it, I will still keep it as it is useful for so many other things. I use it for weekly grocery shopping as the content of one full supermarket trolley fits in easily. Even the transportation of huge sacks of soil from the garden centre is no problem.“
And do you ever regret giving up your car?
“No, I am very happy about our bike. It has a name, we call her Peggy, and she became a sort of family member! In the beginning, we mainly
bought it to save money. But in the end, we saw many other benefits and are happy about the environmental aspects. At some point, we calculated that for the costs of owning and maintaining a car, we could rent one for almost half a year. For distances that are too long for a bike, we use car-sharing and for really long distances abroad, we rent one from time to time; this costs us about as much as our parking spot used to. Furthermore, you can always choose a car of the size you need for a particular purpose.”
After being on the streets with your cargo bike for so long, do you think that it has had an impact on other people? Were there many cargo bikes around five years ago?
“I think, I was one of the first five years ago. But just being on the street with it helps. I do see more and more people with a cargo bike in Brussels. A lot of people on the street seem to be interested and ask me questions about the bike. If possible, I always try to encourage my friends and even complete strangers to give it a go so that they can see how well it work. Many of them were astonished that we are transporting two kids, a football, and a picnic basket at the same time. It would be nice to know that it is making a difference.“
Do you feel safe cycling through the streets of Brussels on a cargo bike with two kids? Is it easy to navigate through a city?
“I actually think that people have more respect since it’s bigger and more visible, especially when I am transporting my kids, cars stop at the intersection and let me pass through. As my cargo bike has only two wheels, it is very flexible, so that I can pass by waiting cars without any problems.”
What about rainy weather and cold temperatures, does that stop you from cycling?
“Of course, you can always find an excuse not to cycle. But unless there is very heavy rain, we just say ‘raincoat on and off we go’. I do have a cover for the cargo bike, which keeps the kids protected.”
Do you think the city is doing enough to encourage and spread the use of cargo bikes?
“There are already some things that changed for the better, e.g. the one-way streets that are open for cyclists in both directions, the special signs at the traffic light that allow cyclists to turn right even when it´s red. But more needs to be done to encourage more and more people to get on their bikes or even replace their car with a cargo bike. But with more and more cyclists, the city will be forced to do something. I would wish for more and wider bike lanes, more parking space for cargo bikes and lowered kerb stone edges. The 30 km/h speed limit already introduced in some residential areas in Brussels is a good idea, but as long as nobody respects it and the city does not enforce it, it will be of no use.
As cargo bikes, especially electric ones, can be quite expensive, I think subsidies would be a good incentive. But even without that, a cargo bike will never be nearly as expensive as the car you are replacing.”
As Barbara’s story illustrates, individuals can act as agents of change in local communities and introduce new people to the world of cargo bikes.
What used to be a niche in the urban mobility landscape is now becoming common practice thanks to local heroes such as Barbara. Their ever-growing presence has more and more people falling in love with cargo bikes and pushes for political progress.
CityChangerCargoBike will be on the lookout for more cargo bike stories from all over Europe. So stay tuned, join the movement, and get your cargo bike smile!