It’s been exactly four months since Fizz #1* and I pedalled back home on a classic Dutch Bakfiets we picked up at Gamla Enskede Lådcyklar. Four months and 1000 kilometers in the saddle later I believe time has come for a few pictures and some feedback.
So far, so good
We’ve been to places, we’ve transported stuff and we’ve had fun, a lot of fun. I guess that’s sort of what I expected the experience would be but I have to admit it’s been even smoother than I anticipated. Never in the last four months did the bike fall short and a bigger vehicle was needed. It just does the job.
It does the job and IT JUST WORKS.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I want stuff that just works. I really can’t be bothered with fixing and tweaking anymore and if there is something I love about this box bike is that: it works. I have not had a single mechanical issue in 1000 kilometers. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Ingenting. I barely had to pump the tires now and then to keep the pressure required for heavy duty. That’s how things should always be. Period.
Winter & Fizz #2 are coming
Maybe it’s a little too early for a proper review though. Temperatures (slowly) begin to drop and I have yet to swap the Schwalbe Marathon Plus for a pair of mountain bike tires that I hope will help keep the rides fun and safe during winter. At the same time Fizz #1 is also looking forward to sitting next to Fizz #2. Fizz #2? Well… she doesn’t know it yet. Twice the fun soon?
A few pictures from the first Cargo Bike Festival held in Stockholm on September 19, 2015. One of my neighbors -who I sent a link to the Facebook event to- ordered a cargo bike right after he and his family went and tried all the bikes available for test rides. I can only call that first edition a success.
The Stockholm Cargo Bike Festival exists to promote the development of energy-efficient & space-efficient urban transportation through cargo bikes, create general public awareness, get the attention of the media, politicians and authorities.
Cargo bikes will be available for test rides so any one can experience their true potential firsthand.
The cycling mode-share in Stockholm decreased in 2014 (compared to both 2012 and 2013). The 7-8% we’re at today seem quite far from the 15% target set for 2030 and if the Capital of Scandinavia was only counting on natural growth to become a world-class cycling city, well, not only will we fail to achieve 15% but we already have.
Getting your hands on a bike
I was recently on a two day business trip in Copenhagen and planned to use some “alone time” to ride around the city and roll over the Bicycle Snake (Cykelslangen). I obviously needed to get my hands on a bike first and, since I could only pick one up after 18:00 on the first day and had to return it early in the morning on the second day, I decided to skip bike rentals and went for a city bike instead.
The City Bikes are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Each city bike has a touchscreen tablet used for navigation, payment and guiding to points of interest in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg.1
Wha?! Could it be that simple? Because it sure isn’t in Stockholm where one has to first get a card from one of the retailers2 to be able to get a bike between 6:00 and 22:00, from April 1st to October 31st only3.
Sure getting your hands on a card (3 days minimum for 165 SEK) isn’t that hard but it’s an extra inconvenient step in the process and being able to register an account directly from the bicycle’s screen and ride for 32 SEK an hour or 88 SEK + 8 SEK an hour with a monthly subscription is just very, very much easier and cheaper for short stays.
If one wants people to get around on bicycles one has to make sure those bicycles are easily accessible at all time for those who don’t own one for whatever reason. Some might not like Copenhagen’s bike share system and criticise but I, as a tourist, really enjoyed the experience.
Cyclists as first-class road users
If you build bike paths, cyclists will come. If you build great bike paths, even more will come. And so what do I see less than five minutes into the ride? Something I haven’t seen so far in Stockholm: a roundabout where cyclists are given a lane within the junction and not around it.
In Copenhagen, cyclists are clearly not second-class road users. They enter, flow around the central island and exit the same way cars do. Cyclists never have to cross one of the roads leading to or leaving the intersection and stop -like they often have to when the lane is outside the island- because a driver could not enter and stopped right on the cyclists and pedestrians paths.
It does not seem much but it makes a huge difference. It also sends a strong message: cyclists are part of the normal traffic flow and share the road.
Stealing a bike is no big deal
Now, I don’t know how bicycle thefts are dealt with in Denmark but when it comes to sending the right (or the wrong for that matter) signals for a better cycling mode-share Sweden has a lot to improve.
According to the Swedish government valuable police time being is wasted by officers forced to deal with unnecessary reports and complaints and the interior minister, Anders Ygeman, suggested that police either drop the complaints without processing them or simply stop taking such calls altogether.
Ygeman believes that “it would benefit everyone if insurance companies did not require a police report when it comes to minor offences, such as a stolen bike or a camera.”
Yes, to Sweden’s interior minister, stealing a bike is a minor offence. It doesn’t matter if it was the bike you used every day to commute to work and/or drop off your children at kindergarten. It was just a bike. Now, if you just had a car instead…
Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later the Bakfiets.nl CargoBike Short is already part of the family daily routines.
We’ve been thinking about getting rid of our car for a while but it really took the imminent birth of Pignon Jr. #2 for us to set things in motion. I have always been riding with Pignon Jr. #1 to preschool and other places already but the car came in handy once in a while. It also came with all the costs associated to convenience which, at the end of the day, are just not worth the money.
One of the biggest argument against owning that particular car though was that it simply is not a family car (3 door-VW-Golf-kind-of gas sucker). Owning a car “designed” for things a family of four tends to do and carry would basically mean, for us, owning another, bigger car that we would still only use twice a month or less anyway.
And that’s pretty much how the whole family ended up at Gamla Enskede Lådcyklar on a Sunday afternoon just a few hours before Måns closed the store for a month.
After so many weeks (months?) looking at cargo bikes specifications, reviews, and videos online I was sure I would ride a Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E back from the shop (it was actually because Måns had a MK1-E available that we went to his shop in the first place). But he, Måns, did what not too many shop owners do anymore and guided us through the process of choosing the right bike for us and our needs and had us try several cargos that he suggested (in the following order) we took for a spin.
We first tried a trike (I came for a MK1-E remember?) and pedalled around the block on a nihola.com Family which -it was the first time both Madame & Monsieur Pignon rode a trike- was a very nice introduction to three-wheeled bicycles.
The bike was easy to handle and pleasant to ride but we felt that it would feel a bit bulky and not so nice to manoeuvre on longer rides (we don’t exactly live in central Stockholm and a roundtrip to Hötorget, for instance, is about 16 kilometers). – around 24,000 SEK
I know I wasn’t used to riding a three-wheeled bicycles but, compared to the nihola.com Family, riding the MK1-E was a completely different experience which, in my trike novice opinion, wasn’t of the riding with the family type. Sure I only rode it around the block for a couple of minutes but I couldn’t really figure out how to tilt it back on sharp corners and keep the rear wheel on the road. Madame felt it was not as stable as the nihola.com Family and did not feel confident in its saddle. First impressions are key and we decided it just was not a bike for us. – around 50,000 SEK
Bakfiets.nl CargoBike Short (and Long)
Last we tried what I thought I would never ride (and like) ever -for reasons I still can’t really explain- and within a couple of seconds knew it was exactly the sort of bike I had to have: a classic Dutch Bakfiets.
We (Madame Pignon is 8 months pregnant) tried both the long (Måns’ bicycle with electric assistance) and short versions and felt -probably due to the fact that they are pretty much regular two-wheeled bicycles, only a bit longer- like we always have had one. Easy to ride, easy to manoeuvre and easy to maintain (not much can go wrong on simpler machines). We had a deal -18,000 SEK- and rode a Bakfiets.nl CargoBike Short home.
Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later then and I would like, once again, to thank Måns for his help and for opening the shop on a sunny Sunday afternoon on his way -on a cargo bike obviously- to the lake. You’ll probably see us again sometime in the future… that box already feels too small.
The B66 and B66 S are among BROOKS’s most loved products, having been on the market since 1927. Classically sprung with double rails for supreme comfort, B66 and B66 S are the ideal all-rounders for daily city or touring use in a rather upright posture. They are most appropriate for cyclists who set their handlebars higher than their saddles. In general, the more upright your riding posture, the wider, and more heavily sprung, the saddle you should choose.
In the U.S., “Cargo Bikes” are becoming quite popular with families, especially in pedal-friendly communities. Families are using the bikes to do everything they do with cars — taking the kids to school, hauling groceries or running errands — without the hassle of finding parking. Some do it to help the environment or to exercise, while others say it is an easier, more fun way to get around. – Wikipedia
Riding a bike for one hour extends the average cyclist’s life by the same amount of time, according to a study in the Netherlands, which also found that they live six months longer than people who do not ride bikes.
Driverless vehicles have been wandering around Sweden for a while already and it’s become normal to read things like “Snowplow runs cyclist over” or “She was run over by a black Golf” even in the most influential newspapers. I hadn’t read the “Oops, wrong pedal!” (very popular in the U.S. and New York City in particular) gambit yet though but it’s finally here and Sweden is definitely catching up.
Motorist pressed the wrong pedal – drove off the road.
Hagsätra. It can go bad if one mistakes the gas for the brake.
Police was called out to Hagsätravägen after a motorist drove down a hill and into a parking lot last week.
This was the result of a driving student mistaking the gas pedal for the brake. Both the student and the driving instructor had to go to the hospital.
No one else was injured but we might not be as lucky next time it happens around a playground or a busy terrace. I would have liked to read that the student and instructor had been charged with something because that kind of “mistake” means they both should, in my book, never be allowed behind the wheel again. Ever.