Four wheels bad, two wheels good
What to do if you have a heavy load to move but want to reduce the pollution you emit? You could hire an electric car, but we discussed in this post some of the downsides. We had this very conundrum when planning a recent gathering at the top of the hill in our nearby Brockwell Park. Luckily the answer was obvious as you can’t drive a car up there anyway: hire the newly available electric cargo bikes that are stationed near our house!
The scheme is run by OurBike and is subsidised by Lambeth Council’s Big Shift Programme. The signup process was fairly straightforward: you download the app, sign up, and upload some photo ID (we used a drivers’ licence). It took a bit less than a day for the ID to be verified, and then we were free to hire the bike. You reserve the bike in advance, unlock the electronic lock using your phone and pay £3 per hour. For that you get a pretty neat electric cargo bike: it has two seats and seatbelts for kids, a rain cover, and you can fit an impressive amount of stuff in it. The bike itself was easy to ride - the power assist was good, and we didn’t struggle at all riding uphill with a fully laden bike. We hired the bike all afternoon for the grand sum of £11.25.
So, this all sounds great! A fraction of the price of a Zipcar, zero kerbside emissions no parking woes nor ULEZ worries, and we were able to ride the bike into the park. But were there any downsides? The bike was a bit cumbersome to manoeuvre when pushing it along the pavement (but this wasn’t for long). It might also seem a bit intimidating to ride if you hadn’t ridden that sort of thing before. One problem we were anticipating was whether car drivers might pass too close and we wouldn’t be able to get out of the way if necessary. However, we found that cars generally stayed well away from us and treated us like another car.
For the eagle-eyed, you will notice that the bike is branded with Koala - our local (and excellent) ice-cream parlour and cafe. Koala is the host of this bike: they take on the responsibility of keeping the battery charged and also letting OurBike know if it has gone missing. We think this is a great idea.
If you are in Hackney or Westminster then Beryl run cargo bikes there, and we hear they are excellent too (full disclosure: Sacha works for Beryl!).
Overall we’re delighted that cargo bikes are becoming more popular across London - both rental bikes and personal ones. They provide a real alternative to driving for moving heavy loads or heavy kids around the place.
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