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A lot of people think cargo bikes are something for businesses rather than families. This is particularly true if you look at cost alone. In many cases, a cargo bike is going to cost considerably more than a bike and bike trailer combination.
But how you approach cargo bikes depends a lot on your perspective. If you approach it from the perspective that a cargo bike is a “nice to have” that may not be strictly necessary then it may be true a cargo bike is a luxury. In this case, you likely already have a car (or two) and possibly a bike trailer (or two). A cargo bike would be in addition to what you already have and may not make a great deal of sense.
But there is a serious shift from rural to urban that’s occurring on a global scale. With higher urban density there is a renewed expectation for good cycling infrastructure. Of course, your mileage with regards to cycling infrastructure may vary. There are many pro-active cities out there (see the list at Copenhagenize) and there are many (OK, many many) that aren’t. But progress is being made.
If you’re living in a city with everything you need within cycling distance, what you’re really looking at is not an addition to your stable of bikes and bike trailers but a replacement for your car.
From that perspective, the cost of a cargo bike becomes much less of an issue. You don’t need me to tell you that a car is a serious drain on finances. We all know that it’s the second most expensive purchase we make in our lives. And, of course, it doesn’t stop with the initial purchase price. Gas, insurance, repairs, parking, etc. all add up to a substantial amount. According to Nerd Wallet the average cost of owning an average vehicle is a whopping USD$8698 a year. Now we can get down to some serious comparison shopping!
But can a cargo bike really replace a car? This, of course, depends on where you live. If you’re within riding distance of most of the things you need then why not? A cargo bike can carry your kids to whatever activities they are participating in, get you to the grocery store and back out with enough food to feed an army, and carry any bulky (or not so bulky) supplies you need for your home.
Now, it may not be realistic to get rid of your car(s) completely but if your commute/family activities can be done by bike and/or public transit then there should be no issue in renting a car when you need to visit grandma who lives in another town.
Maybe you’re part of a two-car household? Consider getting rid of one of your cars in favour of a cargo bike. There’s already a clear trend to fewer two-car households. You can help accelerate it!
So if the cost of a cargo bike is deterring you, make sure you’re looking at the cost from the right perspective. Is it a nice to have? Or a possible replacement for one of your cars?