Cargo bikes kids

Cargo Bikes: An Alternative to the Second Car or Only Car?

The media and manufacturers tend to promote cargo bikes as an alternative to the second family car. But are they right?

The E-Bikes for Families project in Helsinki suggests otherwise. Since 2018, several families had the opportunity to try out cargo bikes as part of the project. The objective is "to encourage families to adopt e-bikes to eliminate the need for a second car".

E-bike project FInland

Participant of the project "E-Bikes for Families" in Helsinki. The various test bikes were provided by the cargo bike dealer Kultaiset Pojat Oy in Espoo. © Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY)

The project page highlights:

[M]ost of the cars that were replaced with e-bikes in the last year were not second family cars, but rather the family’s only cars. […]
Somewhat surprisingly, it is much easier for many families with one car to sell their only car than for families with two cars to sell the family’s second car. In the former case, selling the family’s only car is a mutual decision of the whole family. In the latter case, the decision to sell the second car affects some family members to a greater extent than others, as the “second car” is usually a car for the wife who would lose her mobility freedom were the second car to be sold.

There is also another logical reason: A family living in a city with two cars will presumably have a comparatively high affinity towards cars. The greater the affinity towards cars, the less interest there is in replacing a car with a cargo bike.

In any case, the media will probably continue to focus their cargo bike articles on the question of whether cargo bikes can replace a second car or not. This is perfectly legitimate as a starting point for a discussion with car owners.

For many cargo-bike-families, however, this naive question about replacing a car (whether it is the only or the second one) seems strange to the point of being absurd - at least for those living in cities. In his reaction to an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Can cargo bikes replace cars?), ADFC Cologne chairman Christoph Schmidt sums it up: "No, a car cannot completely replace my cargo bike.


Incidentally, the question for most cargo-bike families is: which second cargo bike should we buy? Cargo bikes quickly become irreplaceable in everyday family life. The distances travelled, transport needs and riding styles of two parents usually differ or change over time. This can happen when a second or third child joins the family or when children start riding their own bikes. A second Cargo bike often makes sense in such cases.

The E-Bikes for Families project in Helsinki also provides video portraits of cargo bike test families. Here is one in Finnish with English subtitles.


  Read the original article published by CCCB partner

CCCB resources on family bikes:

Guide Book:  Transporting Children on the Family Bike. Available in 9 different languages.

Webinar:  Watch our webinar on Family Bikes - the modern way to transport children.

Interview: Meet Barbara Bär and her cargo bike, Peggy. She and her family are living a car-free life with zero regrets and 100% family-fun.