The author and his mother. Ed. note: I asked Calvin Brown to write a review of the Cargo Bike Roll Call so that I didn’t end up reviewing my own event.
Last Saturday, June 9, 2012, was Cargo Bike Roll Call (second edition), which means that I finally got to ride a cargo bike for the first time, unless “surfing” on a trailer attached to a cargo bike counts. The event is unique because cargo bikes are not something you see very often in Chicago or the United States. At the event, however, the brilliant subculture emerged and a wide spectrum of cargo bikes amassed at West Town Bikes. Scouring the web for photos and videos of the amazing possibilities and capabilities of bicycles is always worthwhile, but the event brings the foreign and unusual realm of cargo bikes home to Chicago, where a robust and growing cycle culture is starting to reshape and improve our city, but which has also not fully exploited the magic of the cargo bike. Yes, I see a lot of other folks sporting a nice red milk crate on the back of their bike, like me, but I am much more likely to see a delivery truck parked in every bike lane, than I am to see a bicycle carrying some real cargo.
I brought my mom who enjoys an occasional recreational bike ride, but who is not well versed in bicycle culture. So when she saw a cargo bike with a trailer securing a 12-feet-long kayak, she was weary. “Wouldn’t that be really hard to pull?” My answer was that the bike could easily travel from West Town Bikes to the lake within 20 minutes, piece of cake. And if she didn’t believe me, she could have actually tried riding it for herself. My favorite part of the event, aside from the delicious and generous spread of food and free microbrew beer, was that anyone could test ride any of the cargo bikes. I had the joy of riding a 3-wheeled cargo bike with a cargo bay large enough to fit five young children in the front. My mom sat in the front as I familiarized myself with the physics of the unusual bicycle design.
I am hoping that next time Cargo Bike Roll Call is larger, and in a more prominent space. Most of the attendees were part of the cycling community, but I think the event would be well received and intriguing to guests like my mother who may have never heard of a cargo bike, so having a similar event in a more public arena, like Open Streets, would open up a wide audience to the power of the cargo bikes. The old myths that an SUV is necessary to transport your kayak to the lake, or that cargo bikes are only for selling paletas need to go, and events like Cargo Bike Roll Call will make that happen.
Photos (see full photoset) by Steven Vance, Joshua Koonce, or John Greenfield (all taken on the same camera). A big thank you to the sponsors (like Sweet Cakes Bakery and J.C. Lind Bike Co.) of this Cargo Bike Roll Call. There will be many more events in the future. Stay tuned to the official website for more information.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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