In an age when energy and time are some of our most sought after commodities, the cargo bicycle rears its head and asks to be counted as a positive tool for change. Arguably the most energy efficient machine ever created, the bicycle burns half the amount of food energy as walking to cover the same amount of distance, in a fraction of the time.
Designed and developed in Europe in 1818 by German Baron Karl Drais von Sauerbronn, his early depiction of the bicycle, the “Laufmaschine” or “Running Machine” made entirely from wood was propelled by a running action in a seated position, a rather vigorous and arduous exercise at best. The modern bicycle as we know it however, has come a long way since then through the advancement of science and technology
With all it’s bells and whistles, carbon fibre frames and puncture resistant kevlar coated tyres, a time machine in comparison to Karl Drais’ 1818 Laufmachine, the modern bicycle serves as a streamlined, human powered, carbon neutral mode of transport friendly to the environment, the budget & the community at large. Reducing carbon emissions, increasing health and vitality, alleviating urban congestion and noise pollution, the bike ticks all the boxes the car never could.
In rural Namibia where distances are vast and the likes of fuel and money are scarce, the cargo bicycle is making an appearance as a life saving mode of transport for doctors, nurses and now modified to carry injured people, serving as an ambulance to transport the sick an elderly to nearby hospitals, a distance previously too vast to cover before local NGO’s got involved.
The likes of Amsterdam and Copenhagen have been two major advocates for the bicycle and its use in urban areas having benefited immensely from ”bicycle culture” over the years, creating an inner city space alive with bells and baskets, cycle lanes and cafe culture. The bicycle lends itself to a healthier, non-motorised environment that promotes a more interactive community.
With the benefits of beautiful weather and scenery, is it not time South Africans re-evaluated the bicycle and the myriad of fantastic opportunities for Eco tourism, the creation of commerce and the alleviation of congestion & pollution that ”bicycle culture” will offer our cities.
In defence of current changes to some parts of the city, hats off to Milnerton Council in Cape Town, South Africa for the development and construction of a new fully functional 2 lane cycle path from Blouberg to the CBD, one of only a handful, but already home to young families on the weekends and the odd business man in the week making the most of Spring and a safe route of passage along the Atlantic coastline for cyclists to the city.
Asking the question, that given the facilities and opportunity, will South Africans embrace change and a shift in the way we view the bicycle? Through initiatives like this we help to foster “bicycle culture” and sew the seed of non-motorised transport being viewed as a practical and viable option for urban commuters and approaching the cargo bicycle as a possible green contender to the car.