E-Cargo bikes are the new people carriers

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Last week, as I was picking up my daughter from kindergarten, a neighbor pulled up next to me at a stop sign. “Beautiful RadWagon! He said in greeting. “How do you like it?”

A RadWagon ($ 1,899) is an electric cargo bike manufactured by Rad Power Bikes. Like other e-cargo bikes, this is a battery powered cycle that plugs into a regular wall outlet and is designed to carry hundreds of pounds of people and the like. Some e-cargo bikes, like the Urban Arrow, are front-loading, with an open or closed box that looks like a front-mounted wheelbarrow.

Others, like the RadWagon or the Benno Boost, have an extended rear that can carry many configurations of kids, adults, groceries, and gear. Both guys have become ubiquitous in recent months in my hometown of Durango, Colorado.

While I sometimes see teenagers riding electric bikes to school or retirees taking them home from the grocery store, they are especially popular among families with young children. Parents use them instead of cars to get their kids to school, sporting events, music lessons, parks and everywhere in between. Sure enough, my neighbor was driving a new black RadWagon to pick up his six-year-old twins from the local elementary school.

“I love it!” I shouted as we walked across the street. “We have covered 170 miles in one month!

I knew this because the small display on my handlebars, which tracks battery life and speed, also includes an odometer. I’m sort of obsessed with the odometer: unlike the dismay that comes with seeing my car’s mileage climb closer and closer to an oil change or mechanical breakdown, racking up miles on my electric bike brings a sufficient feeling of satisfaction. Every 25 miles is about a gallon of gasoline saved. Beyond that, every mile is less time spent sitting in a car and more time breathing fresh air, greeting my neighbors, and moving my body.

Electric cargo bikes are still only accessible to families who can afford them, but their usefulness is undeniable.

Before buying an e-cargo bike, I tried to be conscientious on my bike instead of driving. But I live on top of a hill 6,500 feet above sea level, and as my daughter grew older, cycling with her became less convenient. I’m in good shape, but the heavier it is, the more excuses I can find. I just took a shower, I don’t want to get sweaty pedaling up this hill, I thought to myself. Or, I need to buy groceries on the way home. I cannot carry a toddler with 30 pounds and 30 pounds of food!

With the RadWagon, however, the amount of pedal assist increases or decreases with the push of a button, allowing me to carry up to 350 pounds without breaking a sweat or shortness of breath. And driving is often as fast as driving when it comes to getting around town. The RadWagon travels 45 miles on a charge, and my average cruise speed is just under 20 mph. In addition, by taking cycle paths and small roads, I largely avoid traffic lights.

Equally important: e-bikes make shopping fun. I loaned our RadWagon to several friends, and they all came back from their rounds around the neighborhood smiling ear to ear. Some even shouted out loud with the kind of glee I associate more with snowboarding in powder than the commute to work. I’m pretty sure I yelled out loud myself the first time around.

Overall, sales of electric utility bikes in Europe grew by 60% in 2019 alone, and they are expected to grow by 10% per year in the United States over the next decade. But given the number of these bikes in Durango, I wondered if most of the sales went to such affluent mountain towns, which are not necessarily representative of where most people live. So to make sure this is a real trend, I posted on Twitter that I was looking to speak with other parents who regularly use e-cargo bikes to transport their kids.

Author’s daughter, Jo, on a Radwagon electric cargo bike (Photo: Courtesy of Krista Langlois)

I was inundated with answers. People reached out from rural Pennsylvania, a small town in Maine, Canada’s Yukon Territory, Denver, Portland, Seattle, Boston, New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Madison, Austin, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Calgary, London, Geneva, Auckland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Australia, and so on. Parents shared photos of their bikes carrying several children, mountains of sports equipment, and even a Christmas tree. Some said they have been using e-cargo bikes for years and are excited the trend is going to mainstream. A guy told me he had 2,500 miles on his in the first year. Their enthusiasm was palpable.

Electric cargo bikes are only accessible to families who can afford them, but their usefulness is undeniable. About half of all car trips in the United States are less than a mile long, so replacing even a small portion of these with bike rides can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28%. that come from transport. Perhaps more importantly, riding a bicycle instead of driving shows kids that they can play a part in keeping our planet clean and safe. Even my three year old understands that driving less helps prevent air pollution.

A few kilometers after chatting with my neighbor, I stopped at my daughter’s kindergarten to see a real fleet of electric bikes. There was an urban spire capable of carrying three children; a father with his son’s pedal bike strapped to the back of his Blix Packa Genie; and several iterations of RadWagons. Parents were standing around the bikes chatting. I thought of school bus service as a child of my own: a line of gas-guzzling ’80s station wagons and early’ 90s minivans lined up by the curb, with parents – almost all mothers – settled inside. , often smoking cigarettes.

Even though the scene at my daughter’s preschool is not representative of the country as a whole, we have come a long way since that time. And with e-cargo bikes gaining popularity not only among parents, but also among delivery companies, the elderly and other groups, I hope their price will eventually come down, helping us all to continue to grow. move in a healthier and more sustainable direction.


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