It used to be that seeing a cargo bike in my Brooklyn neighborhood was newsworthy. I'd watch the person riding roll by and think, wow, I'd love to have one. I could transport groceries and children quickly and easily.
But where would I put it?
These days, cargo bikes are common enough on the streets where I live. But I still have no idea where people park the damn things, which are quite expensive and potentially tempting to thieves. They sure can't carry them up the stairs of the brownstones and walk-ups that make up most of the local housing stock. Maybe they all live in the few elevator buildings around here, ones that have bike storage rooms? Or perhaps they are among the very privileged few who have garages?
The one person I know who parks his cargo bike on the street is constantly dealing with neighbors who tell him it’s an eyesore and that he has to move it. It migrates, forlornly, from street sign to street sign, looking for a place where it can be left in peace.
It turns out that parking for cargo bikes is even an issue in cities where they are a routine form of transport. The folks at the Copenhagenize Design Company outline the problem:
When you use a cargo bike everyday, you want to have it handy. In many cities, like Copenhagen or Frederiksberg, you find yourself pushing it into the back courtyard because of a lack of secure parking on the street. Cargo bikes are objets de désir for thieves and, unlike regular bicycles, the theft of them is often organised. Most Danish brands are good quality and keep a fair chunk of their market price when sold used. People who do park their cargo bikes out in front of the buildings are forced to lock them to signs, drainpipes and other bits and pieces of urbanness.
A car-shaped prototype for cargo-bike parking, while charming, met with resistance when installed in Copenhagen, according to Copenhagenize’s Mikael Colville-Andersen. So he and his team set out to devise a cargo bike parking solution that would be good-looking, durable, modular, and versatile enough to accommodate a wide range of bike brands (there are at least 15 such brands on the streets in Denmark). The result, developed along with the British firm Cyclehoop, is the Copenhagenize Bar, a simple design with a crossbar that lowers into place between seat and wheels and can be locked in place so that you can’t roll the bike away – and at the same time gives you something to which you can secure another lock for additional safety.
The design is still just a prototype, but Copenhagenize Design Company and Cyclehoop are already working on the next refinement: a swipe and lock system that would work on a subscription basis and would make it possible to use the bar lock without your own device.
Could such bike parking ever make its way onto the streets of North American cities? Right now, it seems unlikely. Then again, there was a time when other bike parking innovations, such as on-street bike corrals, seemed like a far-fetched idea. And now, on the street of New York, at least, they seem to be popping up everywhere.
All images courtesy of Copenhagenize Design Company.