Thursday, August 7, 2008
Trying to get around town with three little children in tow has sometimes been a bit of a challenge. I have been avoiding taking the car - quite apart from the environmental and financial cost of driving, getting three young kids into the car, strapping them all into their seats, then doing the same in reverse in front of the shop or the library is more time consuming than it is worth. So we ended up staying at home much more than I really wanted to.
We now have the solution - a Christiania bike! Technically speaking, this is not a bike but a trike, and it is fantastic. The box in the front can take up to 100kg of cargo. I have a little fold-up bench in it for the two younger boys. The seat comes with a seat belt and a three point harness for my youngest. My older boy sits on a cosy blanket in the front. The three shiny metal frames on the side can be plugged in to make a frame for a roof. I have made a rain cover from various materials I already had at home and we have been travelling around the village every day this week. It is so much fun!
We get to places quickly, the kids love it, there is enough space in the box to add some shopping or library books (today we got bare rooted grape vines which we later planted on the pergola!), and I got used to riding the bike quite quickly. It felt a bit different to a normal bike at the beginning, and I also realised I wasn't quite as fit as I thought I was :-) - but just a few days of riding the bike around is already having an impact both on my fitness level and my confidence.
This really is a wonderful way of getting around - and I hope that at least some of the people who stare at us when we zoom past might think this is a good idea and something to copy!
Funnily enough, just when we got back from our first outing, I heard on the radio that Australia Post is considering changing their delivery fleet from motorbikes to cargo bikes and trikes, so maybe we will soon be just one of many rather than a slightly odd curiosity.
The Christiania bike comes from Denmark. The other great cycling nation, Holland, also has a range of cargo bikes and trikes, known as "baksfiet". The sole Australian importer of Christiania bikes is psbikes.
I am particularly impressed with the quality of the bike - every bit is beautifully made to last. No cheap plastic bits that will fall off in a couple of months. Proper pedals made from metal. The steering works incredibly well, and it is not difficult to ride at all - despite the weight in the front!
Apparently, there are more than 20,000 such bikes in use in Copenhagen. I have read about trikes with longer boxes for child care centres and pre-schools which fit six or more kids. Christiania also offers bikes with a little ramp to put a wheelchair into the box. Then there are some with straight boxes with lids, useful for delivery businesses such as catering etc.
The psbikes website also has some great photos, worth having a look.