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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Talking Transit: An ode to cargo bikes

I want to take today to continue last week’s trend of positivity and talk about one of my favorite developments in car-free living: cargo bikes! 

Of course, cargo bikes are anything but a novel concept — they are literally just bikes with space to store stuff. But they hold enormous potential to solve issues posed by car-free living. For one, cargo bikes solve the issue of the grocery store trip by allowing you space to store all of your bags. An electric motor on many bikes even takes away the rigor of biking up and down hills to the store and back.

Cargo bikes could be huge for an area like Tufts, as most Tufts students live at an inconvenient distance from our surrounding grocery stores. They especially open up access to grocery stores like the Wegmans in Medford or the Market Basket in Union Square to kids who don’t have cars or don’t want to drive. These are not long rides, and they’re even shorter with an electric bike.

Now, of course, you have to think about the price. These things cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. But, ultimately, if you’re weighing it against the cost of a car, your perception might change. A decent used car might (emphasis on the “might!”) be several thousand dollars — a new car, even more. The best cargo bikes are going to cost about as much as the worst of those offerings, so the cost comparison really isn’t close.

Cargo bikes also have huge potential for solving issues with urban delivery trucks. Big trucks in urban areas are not only loud and disruptive but also incredibly dangerous for pedestrians and bikers and horrendous for the environment to boot. Cargo bikes come in many forms and can be used to make similar-scale deliveries as trucks throughout our cities. And, as this piece from the Guardian shows, some evidence suggests that cargo bikes can deliver goods significantly faster than certain vans.

Cargo bikes are great for small-scale deliveries too. Some of the well-known apps like Doordash allow drivers to deliver on bikes, and Getir, a relatively new delivery company that operates in only a few cities — Boston included — uses a delivery network that is entirely made up of bikes and scooters. Cargo bikes are a great vehicle to use for work like this, getting deliveries done faster, more efficiently and without the emissions from cars or trucks.

There is a ton of space for growth in the cargo bike market. Demand is expected to grow at a rate of almost 12% annually over the next decade, as urban areas grapple with logistical challenges like congestion and seek ways to address pressing environmental issues like air quality and climate change.

Cargo bikes have the potential to alleviate some of our biggest stresses around getting rid of cars, and the faster we can build infrastructure for them, like bike lanes and bike racks, the faster we can take cars off the road and solve the biggest problems they cause in our cities.