Knox: The Cargo E-trike
We added the City’s first electric-assist cargo tricycle to central fleet. We wanted to know if we could encourage employees to use a zero-emission vehicle for work trips.
We used a grant to buy a three-wheeled, front-loaded, cargo tricycle with electric assistance. We wanted to help City employees lead by example while conducting City business. We hypothesized that for short-distance trips, the trike would be a reasonable replacement for a car or truck. That’s assuming that an employee needed to carry something for their work trip, making walking or taking the MBTA less feasible.
The name for the City’s employee vehicle check-out system is FleetHub. We analyzed FleetHub data for trips made between September 2018 and September 2019.
- Number of trips: ~6500
- Median distance (round-trip): ~9 miles
- Number of trips at or less than the median distance: ~2500
Working with Public Works, we offered to host the prototype for two years to kick the tires on the trike. We are currently exploring logistics around:
- storage and maintenance
- data management
- employee training
- resident perceptions and feedback, and
- vehicle checkout and return.
We took inspiration from other cities and organizations who were testing whether cargo bikes and trikes made sense. In particular, we looked at:
- Madison, WI: partnered with a local manufacturer to add a cargo bike to their fleet
- Denton, TX: bought a trike to replace employee car trips for hauling things around town
- Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ (along with an Arboretum in Arkansas): bought cargo trikes for landscaping work, including hauling mulch and compost.
Closer to home, we see examples of cargo bikes at:
- the Arnold Arboretum
- the BiblioCycle at the Boston Public Library. and
- the BPM Blueberry. the market’s produce cargo trike.
We initiated the purchase of the trike in March 2020, before Boston declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19. With the pandemic, our launch timeline was delayed. The community meetings that we also imagined employees would need the trike for moved to virtual sessions. We are being responsive to the moment and finding new, safe uses for the trike until public meetings return.
Why we did this
The Environment Department released the City’s Climate Action Plan update in October 2019. We wanted to explore a prototype that aligned with that commitment.
One thing the plan calls for is reducing municipal carbon emissions. The City’s Central Fleet of vehicles accounts for roughly 25 percent of our local government emissions. So we wondered a few things:
- If we added a cargo electric-assist trike to the fleet, would employees want to use it instead of a car or truck?
- How would residents perceive the City’s use of the cargo e-trike to reduce our emissions?
The trike also supports Go Boston 2030. the City of Boston’s long-range, equitable transportation plan. Go Boston aims to encourage mode shift away from single-occupancy vehicle trips toward low-emission modes of travel. These included walking, biking, and public transit.
We hope to learn what benefits this zero-emission vehicle can bring through testing.
Honoring Kittie Knox
We wanted the City’s first cargo e-trike to be doubly special. So, we decided to name it after a trailblazing Bostonian: Kittie Knox.
On August 20, 2020, in the virtual naming ceremony, the tricycle was named after Katherine “Kittie” Knox. Knox was a biracial West End resident in the 1880s who confronted racial and gender stereotypes in Boston’s bicycling community. Mayor Walsh also proclaimed August 20, 2020, Kittie Knox Day in Boston.
We also partnered with Women’s Advancement and the Environment Department. We incorporated the virtual naming ceremony into Women’s Advancement’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of suffrage.
What We Learned
During the prototype period, employees took 85 trips with Knox and logged 362 miles (for an average roundtrip of 4.25 miles). According to employee reports, 27 of the 85 trips (32 percent) otherwise would have been taken with a Central Fleet vehicle or some other car. A pool of 34 employees opted in to use the trike for work purposes. We hypothesize that the pandemic played a large role in subduing employee interest in using the trike, particularly while some City employees were still on a work-from-home policy due to the pandemic, and because public meetings moved online.
We hoped that by avoiding Boston’s notorious vehicle traffic, employees would:
We did not suggest mandating that everyone use the trike, or that cargo trikes or bikes replace all trucks and cars in the fleet. However, for specific types of tasks and work trips — chief among them, hauling heavy things a short or medium distance — the trike seems to have increased employee satisfaction, as evidenced by the following self-reported quotes:
“I’m happy to report that my first event with Knox went well. Overall, I look forward to using her again!”
“It was so useful, a little hard to go over bumps with so much stuff, but honestly made all the difference. Who needs parking ?”
“. I think most people would take a fleethub but I don’t have a license so I would have carried [my cargo] on the train very uncomfortably or someone helping me would take them on a Fleethub. Thank you for making it possible to have a mode of transportation that allows me (us) to arrive at public engagement meetings with all our cargo!”
“Thank you! It was a blast riding it! I felt a bit more comfortable riding with it on some higher-stress streets than I would on my normal bike. I think a combination of the size and having the electric assist…”
We know many of our plans and goals ask a lot of our business community and residents. We hoped that through leading by example, we could show our many constituencies that we, too, are doing the work necessary to make Boston carbon-neutral by 2050.
We weren’t able to learn as much in this domain as we hoped, primarily because the majority of the prototype happened while the City was still under its public health emergency declaration due to the Covid pandemic. Even once that was lifted, entirely in-person public events have been slow to return. However, anecdotally, when residents encountered Knox on the street or at Neighborhood Coffee Hours or other events, they indicated joyful surprise that the City was actually testing out this vehicle type in its fleet.
“. Constituents and BID members came up to the trike and had so many questions! They were excited to see this idea being tested and were super impressed.”
— City employee who brought the trike to Boston Blooms
E cargo trike
As a lifelong bike lover who has survived many close calls with cars and reckless drivers, this quote from the cult classic movie “Repo Man,” has always made me laugh. “The more you drive,” Miller tells Otto while philosophizing over a trash can fire, “the less intelligent you are.”
It’s a good-natured ribbing and cultural critique for a car-dependent nation where long commutes, traffic gridlock, air pollution, road fatalities, rising carbon emissions, and the expense of motor vehicle ownership call into question our automobile addiction.
Thus my passion for bicyclesand one type in particular: the electric cargo bike. They are two-wheeled family minivans and pedal-powered delivery trucks.
Hauling dirt and harvesting vegetables with the Tern.
Sales of electric cargo bikes are surging, most notably in Europe where purchases of e-assist cargo bikes grew by 60 percent in 2019. Sales of all categories of cargo bikes (both electric and traditional) are growing at more than 50 percent annually in Europe, with Copenhagen alone having more than 40,000 in private use. And the size of the electric cargo bike market in Germany is forecast to hit 545 million by 2031.
My wife and I, who have no children, are firm believers. For the past year, we had a Tern HSD S8i on loan from a friend. It changed our lives for the better.
Camping, Shopping, Gardening and
Katie and I are fans of e-bike camping. Instead of loading up our car and heading for the woods, we load up the Tern and a second e-bike and hit the road. Last summer, we pedaled 11 miles across Seattle to the West Seattle ferry terminal, where we boarded a ferry to Vashon Island and enjoyed a long weekend of riding, glamping, and outdoor adventureno motor vehicle necessary. Read our blog post about that trip.
Katie points out the benefits of electric cargo bike glamping on Vashon Island.
The camping trip is just one example of how the Tern helped us drive less. We grocery shop, garden, haul large items, and even deliver Christmas presents by e-bike.
Ho ho ho. Loaded up and ready to deliver gifts on a drizzly Christmas morning.
All electric bikes have the ability to flatten hills, extend your range, and get you to work without sweating, but for families or individuals seeking to drive less, no category of e-bike enables the car-lite lifestyle more than electric cargo bikes. Chores and trips that would be tedious or mundane by car become fun and healthy outdoor excursions. And due to Seattle’s traffic and parking woes, these trips are sometimes faster by e-bike than by car.
Bicycling in Seattle often requires taking the lane and pedaling up steep hills while hauling loads. Charging uphill while carrying 100 pounds of cargo (the Tern is built to carry up to 375 pounds) or a week’s worth of groceries feels like a superpower.
We also spend less on gas and car maintenance. The average cost of car ownership, for vehicles driven 15,000 miles, was 9,561 in 2020. We are also mindful of the fact that transportation—primarily from motor vehicle use—is the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, Washington state, and Seattle.
Front Loaders, Longtails, Kid Carriers, Trikes
There are a wide variety of e-cargo bike styles, from Dutch “bakfiets” models with the cargo hauler positioned in front of the rider, to long-tail models that have an extended wheelbase and long rear rack with the ability to carry oversized panniers. Many models can be accessorized for carrying children or even adult passengers. They can also be outfitted for use by businesses.
In Europe, a growing number of delivery companies and postal services are employing electric cargo bikes. In Seattle, the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab has launched a logistics hub downtown, where goods can be loaded onto electric cargo trikes for “last-mile” deliveryreducing the need for trucks and delivery vans.
Several years ago I participated in a film shoot in Berlin that used an electric cargo trike as a platform for the cameraman.
The Rapid growth of electric cargo bikes in Europe is due in part to government subsidies and incentives. Similar subsidies are lacking in the United States, although Washington Bikes pushed for passage of a bill that would have eliminated sales taxes on e-bike purchases. That bill failed. Unfortunate, as the federal government and state officer financial incentives for electric cars.
Other Cascade staff members are electric cargo bike believers as well.
“What these machines really do is open people up to ways of creatively solving problems without the use of traditional motor vehicles,” says Education Director Stephen Rowley, who owns a Bullitt.
Patti settles in for an electric cargo bike cruise on Rowley’s front-loader Bullitt.
“The logistical problems of future generations will need to be solved without the easy solution of fossil fuels,” Rowley says. “Riding a cargo e-bike is forward-looking, and I feel that way every time I load my dog Patti into her cargo box and head out for the day.”
Even though it’s a cargo bike, we used the Tern for bike trips even when we didn’t need to carry cargo. I rode to business engagements on the Tern when pressed for time. People drive full-sized SUVs to work, so there’s nothing wrong with riding a larger than necessary e-bike.
The Tern has been ridden in multiple Peace Peloton events and for Cascade-related rides.
Katie occasionally used the Tern when I rode my lightweight road bike. She carried the water, food, tools, and a full-sized floor pump in case I flatted. I got to ride light and fast with no tools stuffed into my s.
Firefighters and Food Banks
The Tern was also helpful during my volunteer food bank delivery rides with Cascade’s Pedaling Relief Project, which uses bicycles, cargo bikes, and bike trailers to transport and rescue food for food banks, as well as delivering books and supplies for schools.
Pedaling Relief Project volunteer Kiril Glushko hauls a heavy load of food on his Riese Muller electric cargo bike.
Professionals and tradespeople who must carry tools can also benefit from an electric cargo bike. Last year, I interviewed several Seattle firefighters who bought RadWagons from Seattle e-bike brand Rad Power Bikes.
Michelle Plesko of Kirkland owns an Urban Arrow front-loading electric cargo bike. With five children, she and her spouse also own an Xtracycle cargo bike. They recently bought their 13-year-old daughter a Tern HSD. “We use them for everything. We only drive if we are going somewhere too far or not safe to take the bikes,” she says.
Michelle Plesko’s Urban Arrow is a school bus and family minivan.
The Pleskos live in a bike-friendly area of Kirkland and ride to the grocery store, church, library, friends’ homes. “These are our first mode of transportation. It’s wonderful.”
I have too many bicycles, but if I could only have one it would be a compact electric cargo bike. You can ride it fully loaded or carrying nothing but yourself, at a cost of pennies per mile.
The big caveat is that electric cargo bikes can be expensive. The RadWagon 4 is one of the more affordable models at 1,900. go up from there. The Tern HSD S8i sells for 4,100. The Riese Muller Packster 40 costs 6,500. These can be costly machines, but they’re worth the investment for individuals with the money and space to store themand compared to the skyrocketing of used motor vehicles, cost way less overall.
The good news is you don’t need to buy a cargo model. Any e-bike will do if you attach a trailer. The Pedaling Relief Project uses Burley bicycle trailers that can be attached to nearly any bicycle or e-bike for carrying kids or heavy objects.
Bike trailers are an affordable way to turn any bicycle into a cargo hauler.
Looking to buy one? For Seattle-area residents, GO Family Cyclery is a cargo bike specialist with a variety of high-end European brands located in the Greenwood neighborhood. Rad Power Bikes, a Cascade sponsor, offers test rides at its showroom in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, and will also schedule mobile test rides.
Opt for our electric-assisted E-cargo bike for logistics and last-mile urban delivery. Our Made in France chassis can transport 350kg of payloads while remaining manageable and suitable for deliveries in the city center or pedestrian street.
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Why A Family Cargo Bike Is The Best Purchase You Can Make This Year
My hometown is super bike-friendly; there are clear bike lanes, a city-wide speed limit of 25 miles per hour, and the weather is moderate year-round. My partner and I used to bike to nearby grocery stores or breweries, and when we had kids, we invested in a bike trailer.
It wasn’t long before my kids outgrew the space of the trailer and started to bicker, mostly about the baby pulling hair. I couldn’t see what was going on behind me or intervene in the sisterly quarrel while biking and wondered if there was a better way.
During the pandemic I started to see cargo bikes all around town, some with kids on the back, some with kids up front, all kinds of different colors and sizes, and every parent and child on the bike looked like they were having a grand old time. I was intrigued.
Could a cargo bike could be the answer to all of my problems? It seemed like the perfect solution to turn our preschool commute into a way to get exercise and for me to enjoy the outdoors with my children, reduce my carbon footprint, and still be able to get to work on time!
Our cargo bike has been that, and more. Now that I’ve been a cargo bike rider for a year, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, in the hopes that it might be a useful tool in your decision to join the #cargobikelife.
I talk about my cargo bike all of the time. People on the street are often asking me the same questions:
What is a cargo bike?
A cargo bike is a bike designed to carry more cargo than just the rider in the front or back of the bike. Thanks to the extra cargo space, a cargo bike can allow you to transport multiple kids, pets, adults, and, well, cargo all at the same time.
Cargo bikes usually accommodate a larger age range for their passengers, allowing you to transport babies, kids, and adults, therefore extending the life of your bike longer than a bike trailer or baby seat.
Why should you get a cargo bike for your family with little kids (0-7)?
Cargo bikes are perfect for families. They allow for multiple kids to ride together with an adult and engage with the world around them at the same time. You can have a conversation with your kids, play music, eat snacks, and keep an eye on what is going on in a way you cannot while driving. The kids are also next to each other and can engage with each other differently than they can while confined to their car seats.
The bike is great for families who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint too! We’ve hauled kids, adults, groceries, backpacks, and a dog in our cargo bike.
What are the 4 types of cargo bikes and their costs?
There are four types of cargo bikes: the longtail, the mid-tail, the long john (or bakfiets which means ‘bike box’ in Dutch), and the front-load trike.
The Longtail Cargo Bike
The longtail can fit 1-3 kids on the back deck and looks like it has an extended back bike rack. The extra cargo space is on the longer tail end of the bike and any added saddlebags under the kid’s legs or in a front basket. Popular longtail options are Xtracycle ( non-electric Swoop 2,147 and electric e-Swoop 4,999 ) and the Yuba ( non-electric Kombi 1199 and electric Kombi 3299 ).
I’ve asked some of our neighbors with longtail bikes for their review, and all love how they ride like a typical bike, and how customizable each one is. These customizable options—such as adding a baby bike seat (200), handlebars for the back riders (200), footrests (120), padded seats (70)—come with an added cost which can quickly turn your reasonably priced cargo bike into quite the expense.
The Midtail Cargo Bike
The mid-tail cargo bike has a shorter tail than the longtail and can fit 1-2 small kids or 1 bigger kid with space between the kid and the rider. The Yuba Boda Boda (3,800) is a popular example of the mid-tail electric-assist cargo bike. The shorter frame of the mid-tail makes riding and storage easier, however, the extra cargo capacity is limited.
The Long John/Bakfiets Cargo Bike
The long john/bakfiets like the Yuba Supermarché (non-electric 3,500) and Urban Arrow (electric 6,999) have a front-loading cargo box for 1-3 passengers between the handlebars and the front tire.
The one parent I met with a bakfiet loves having their kids upfront to see what they are seeing as you ride, and feels the weight balance is easy to maneuver since the cargo box sits so low to the ground. These cargo bikes come with extra features too, such as clips to attach your infant car seat or an extra seat up front to fit one additional passenger.
The Front-Load Trike Cargo Bike
The Front-Load Trike has two wheels supporting a larger box in the front of the bike and one wheel in the back under the bike seat.
This cargo bike design allows you to carry 4 children (or 2 kids and one adult) comfortably in the cargo box in front of the bike and provides ample storage.
Some popular options are the Ferla Family Cargo Bike (Inspire 2,999 non-electric; 3,999 electric), and the Bunch Bike (3,999 electric).
The cargo bike rotates in the middle of the cargo box rather than at the handlebars. This pivot point change makes riding this bike a little tricky (see video for an example). The bike is also designed to tilt the seat towards the inside of the turn in order to shift the biker’s weight and prevent the bike from tilting.
Once you’ve figured out the steering, riding this bike provides maximum stability for your passengers because all weight is supported on two wheels instead of one.