European cyclists take children, groceries

by Raymond Parker on October 25, 2010

in Advocacy, Cycling, Video

Fairfield Bicycle Shop co-owner Tim Unger cycles his recycling

(click to enlarge)

Letters griping about traffic congestion and demanding bigger and better roads turn up often in the newspaper. Yesterday, the Victoria Times Colonist printed my response to one of them.

Victoria Times Colonist, October 24, 2009—Pg. D3

Re: “Congestion a result of bad decisions,” Letters, Oct. 17.

The writer who claimed “Bicycles do not carry couches, or even large loads of groceries or laundry” might look to those European cites he dismissed as positive models, where the cargo bike is common.

You don’t have to be an athlete to use one of these machines (though Victoria’s Simon Whitfield can be seen carrying his children and groceries in such a vehicle); gearing is appropriate to moving loads.

On the streets of Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Eindhoven, mothers transport their children to school and laundry to the laundromat. Delivery companies move everything from produce to kegs of beer.

Though pedal power might not be appropriate for large industrial transport (still, never say never!) there is absolutely no reason, other than lack of imagination and will, that the human powered vehicle cannot become an important method of escaping gridlock and, yes, the blight of urban sprawl.

Meanwhile, for ideas on crossing the “vast distances” of this continent, we might also look to Europe where, fast, efficient and clean rail transport whisks passengers to their destination speedily and in comfort. | WorkCycles | CargoCycling

{ 6 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Ryan October 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

It drives me up a wall when I read or hear comments from people who say you can’t go grocery shopping with a bike.

For the past 5 years I’ve been using a bike to grocery shop. Before that I spent a year walking my groceries home.
I’ve NEVER had any issues bringing groceries home. I could make it even easier on myself and get a trailer.

I’ve purchased and brought home on a bike: Computers, monitors, OLD STYLE TV’s, chairs and much more.
Last boxing day I purchased the computer I am currently using. I had the computer securely on the back of my bike, I brought garbage bags to cover the box (Dec. 26 in Ontario and it was raining) and took my time heading home (only 3 km).

As for larger items such as a couch, refrigerator? Don’t most stores offer free shipping? Plus, if you own ANY kind of small vehicle, how are you going to bring those larger items home?

Kids is another thing. Although I don’t have any, I simply point to the Netherlands and/or Denmark, where children are take to school, events and shopping daily by bike. I’ve yet to see a picture or video where the kids are not smiling and having fun.
In most cases the kids aren’t even wearing helmets, which would incense people here.


Ryan October 25, 2010 at 10:45 am

Oops, forgot to add this about trains:
High speed trains are an absolute must. I think Canadians forget sometimes the roll trains played in forming/connecting this country.

Here in Ontario, it would be great to see a high speed train connect communities together. (not limited to just Ontario of course)

Here in Niagara we just got the GO bus service a little while ago. On weekends during the summer the GO Train comes here. We are looking at adding the GO train permanently.
Although it’s not a high speed train, GO plays a vital role in connecting communities with Toronto.

There is also talk of a Windsor to Quebec City high speed train, that makes stops in cities along the way. Regrettably it would not connect to Niagara (out of the way).
As someone who doesn’t have their drivers license, a train is the most practical way of getting around from city to city. As it stands now, they are too slow and not enough running throughout the day.

As strongly as I feel towards bikes, I feel equally as strong towards trains…Perhaps it’s the European inside of me?!?


Jenny October 25, 2010 at 11:45 am

Speaking of trains for moving people and goods, in Dresden the VW factory has all their car parts delivered by tram –


Raymond Parker October 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for the interesting perspectives.

There are only two things I miss about Toronto: diversity of entertainment and the public transport system.

Bikes and trains made an early impression on me, as recorded in this story:


Kim October 29, 2010 at 2:52 am

Since selling my last car in 1994 I have commuted and done all my grocery shopping by bicycle. The car is not a necessity for urban living, which ever continent you live on.

Back in 94 I sold my car out of necessity as I went to university as a mature student and I needed the money. At the time I had every intention of buying another car after I graduated, but at the end of four years without a car I just could face the loss of freedom which buying one would mean. You don’t realise what a drag owning a car is until you get rid of it! Living in a city without a car gives you so much freedom, and for those rare occasions you do want to use a car for some reason, there is always Avis.


mikael October 29, 2010 at 4:01 am

It’s high time that the “vast differences” myth is debunked. Over half of North Americans live within 8 km of their workplace and many more live even closer to their local shops. Cargo bikes are an excellent alternative.

There are 30,000 cargo bikes in Greater Copenhagen and the city has the third-largest urban sprawl in Europe. Bicycles are a real and viable solution, not ‘alternative transportation’.


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