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Why cargo bikes are the way to go in Cambridge



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A new campaign to promote and celebrate the benefits of cargo bikes has been launched by Camcycle, in collaboration with Cambridgeshire County Council.

Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell
Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell

The number of cargo bikes in and around Cambridge has been growing rapidly over the last few years and the council is keen to encourage more people to try them. Cambridge was selected as one of the lead cities involved in the European City Changer Cargo Bike project, in recognition of the progress made since the first cargo bikes were introduced to the city in 2002 by Hugh Salt of the School Run Centre.

The aim is to continue to set the standard for cities in the UK and Europe and to expand cargo bike use to more families and businesses across Cambridgeshire. A leaflet on family cargo cycling will be delivered to local schools and nurseries and the council is also planning a series of promotional events, which began this month with two free cargo bike maintenance workshops at Outspoken Cycles.

One keen cargo bike user is Steve Puleston, a carpenter and owner of Bespoke Cambridge. Steve has been using a cargo bike for work purposes for seven years. He said: “I don’t actually drive so from the start that was my idea... It’s a lot more convenient with parking and that kind of thing, I find.”

Steve’s jobs are mainly in the city, although he does occasionally cycle to the villages (“I think the furthest I’ve gone out is Oakington, or Fulbourn the other way”). He explained: “I probably do on average, I would say, between three and six miles a day.

“So not too far, but it’s usually Camcycle and the county council are promoting the use of cargo bikes for businesses and families either to material suppliers, builder’s merchants or to the people’s houses I’m working in.”

Does Steve see many other cargo bikes on the roads? “I’m seeing an increase in them, what with Oxwash and Zedify,” he said. “It’s definitely on the increase – people are taking to bikes more, I would say.”

Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell
Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell

Another local man who would not be without his cargo bike is Mike Vilhauer of Mike’s Bread, who uses it to deliver his handmade bread. “I bought it in June of 2020,” said Mike, who originally hails from Portland, Oregon, in the US.

“I started delivering by car and then I quickly realised that that wasn’t going to work and I started looking for an alternative. I rented a cargo bike from the School Run down on Mill Road, just to test to see if it would work.

“It proved successful and then I went to look for a better solution – something that was electric – and that’s when I purchased the bike.” Mike, who notes that he cycles “about six or seven miles” a day, continued: “I rely on a lot of the access routes through town. The city’s put in barriers to stop cars from transiting a lot of the spots, and I use those as routes to get through to different neighbourhoods.”

Additional funding from the Department for Transport enabled the council to buy 30 electric cargo bikes which have been rolled out to families, businesses, charities and libraries in the county, and a Try Before You Buy scheme is also available to enable people to trial different types of cargo bike at low cost.

Cllr Neil Shailer, member of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee and the county’s non-motorised-user champion, said: “Cargo bikes bring a clean, green association and image to a business.

Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell
Camcycle has been working on a project with the County Council to promote cargo bikes for businesses and families seen here on the new Abbey Chesterton bridge towpath. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Other potential benefits include the ability to go places cars/vans cannot; they are an advertising space in their own right; they are less expensive to run, maintain and tax; and it is easier to recruit staff with no licence requirement.”

Camcycle has been a strong supporter of cargo bikes for many years. On World Car Free Day in 2019, it launched Cambridge’s first Cargo Carnival parade as part of its annual Festival of Cycling. Information can be found at camcycle.org.uk/cargobikes. Join the campaign by sharing your experiences online using the hashtag #LoveCargoBikes.

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