I’ve always been a bike guy, but not always a cargo bike guy. For a long time I was a fixie guy focused on the “less is more” approach to my bike. To be honest, I bristled at the idea of a saddle bag. I used to think the point of riding was to go fast on a training ride or zip through traffic reliving my glory days as a messenger, even when I became a full-time bicycle accident attorney in Charleston, SC. But for the past five years, most of my saddle hours have been on my cargo bike, including my daily commute to Bike Law HQ.
So what happened? In 2014 Bike Law Peter came back from a trip to Copenhagen raving about the only people he saw riding in cycling kit — a group of guys riding cargo bikes, specifically, Bullitts made by Larry vs. Harry. It made no sense to me, but he was borderline obsessed. I had seen the kind of bikes he was talking about back in the mid 1990s during my stint as a bike messenger in Washington, D.C. I thought they were utilitarian, but seemed an awful way to push oneself around the city no matter how much you could haul.
But Peter was convinced, so, he got one. When it arrived we followed the YouTube instructions to build it up and took it for a spin. Then I was hooked. It could carry anything I needed and it was still agile and fun to ride. Whenever I got the chance, I took the Bullitt.
Soon, I was extolling its virtues to anyone that would listen. Like two evangelists we were intent on spreading the word. When the inevitable questions about it came, we could go on and on about its utility and benefit as a car replacement.
In 2015 we ordered seven (!) more Bullitts from Larry vs. Harry and had them shipped to Bike Law HQ in Charleston. Now we had a fleet that could be deployed to other bike crash attorneys in the Bike Law Network.
It seemed maybe a little ridiculous. Were we over the top with this? Did other people see it this way? Bike culture can be cliquey and weird, with people staying in their own lanes, so to speak. I wondered who else would get excited by this. Turns out lots of people. While not too much on the radar in South Carolina, cargo bikes of all sorts had been popular in Europe for ages and were steadily catching on in the states.
A good friend of Bike Law, and a former client, Jake Thomas, had caught the cargo-curious vibe a few years before I did. An urban riding, fixie kid for years, it seemed like a big jump. He had seen a cargo bike for the first time in Urban Velo years before, and then in-person in 2013 at MonsterTrack in NYC. The idea of riding a bike with a wheelbase of almost seven feet seemed over his head, but the benefits of a cargo bike appealed to him.
After becoming a dad, he wanted to share cycling with his daughter. “I had been borrowing a cruiser bike with a kid seat on it and taking my kid all over town and she loved it,” he says.
About that same time Bike Law was importing a bunch of Christiania bakfiets. Because of their front-end stability and large cargo area, Jake thought they were, “Perfect for taking kids places and grabbing groceries,” he says. After borrowing one to take his daughter for a ride on her birthday, they were in love. “We had never experienced something like this before!”
Not long after, Jake tried a Bullitt and “it was AWESOME.” He immediately bought a box for the front and took it for a ride with his kid. “It was the best experience I’ve had on a bike! I love everything about having a cargo bike.”
So do Melissa and Ken Ingersoll. “The cargo bike makes it easy for us to live the life we want. Instead of needing to own two cars, we get away with just one,” says Ken. Ken is also a former client and he and his wife Melissa have gotten around by bike for a long time. They wanted to keep that lifestyle as parents. “Once our child came into this world, we needed another option. We could have modified one of our existing bikes but we really wanted something that would allow us to zip all over town easily and bring more than just our daughter along for the ride.” Enter the cargo bike.
“With the cargo bike, we can ride to Hampton Park for a picnic or over to the swimming pool for lessons or to relax with all our gear in tow.” They get to see a lot more of their city, too. “We are able to take side streets or alleys that cars may not be able to get into and we never have to pay for parking. Our cargo bike saves us money, gives us a sense of freedom, and allows us to live our best lives.”
Five years on from my first ride, I’m with Jake and Ken and Melissa. I ride my cargo bike every single day. I use it for anything I would have used a car for in the past, taking the drudgery out of errands and replacing it with the joy you get by going by bike. I have better conversations with my son as we commute to school than I ever have in the car. That’s why our family gets by with one car easily–just like the Ingersolls.
I have ridden it in a suit on the way to court. I load it with picnic supplies and use the deck as a table. We’ve fished from it. On the 4th of July, we use it as a seat to watch fireworks. Our entire family has shared an ice cream cone on it while riding home from the shop.
I have always favored a bike over a car, but thought that one day I would have to give in to American car culture because, you know, life stuff. Nope.I’m using the bike for utility not speed but I’m still making good times. I’m saving time in minutes and hours of travel and savoring the time I spend doing it, making memories out of what would be daily monotony. I roll right up to stores or restaurants. Parking is never an issue. But it’s the ride there, anywhere, that is really special.
Thanks, cargo bike.