Cargo Bikes: a Multi-Modal Journey with Children

Updated: May 4

BUX Network Session* 2

10 September 2021


*BUX Network sessions are regular meetings of a group of bike enthusiasts with diverse backgrounds to have deep conversations, generate insights and come up with ideas to make biking a better user experience in the places where we are at home - our own cities and communities. In these blog posts, we share a recap of the topics discussed in each session.


Transitions with a Cargo Bike: Negotiating Newcastle with Oversized Bikes

Presented by Jacqui Hicks


Riding a cargo bike with children requires distinct preparations for journeys, especially journeys that combine cycling with public transport. Australian transport planner and mother, Jacqui Hicks, introduced BUX Network members to a variety of user challenges during her planned multi-modal journey riding a cargo bicycle with two children (2-5 years old) and train to go from her grandfather's house back to her home in Newcastle, Australia.


Jacqui began her presentation by describing the characteristics of a persona of two-career environmentally and socially-minded parents with two children, living in the inner suburbs (4-5 kilometres from the city centre) of Newcastle, Australia. She shared some of the differences between riding a cargo bike carrying two children compared with riding a commuter bike: since the cargo bike is bigger, longer, and wider, it is more cumbersome and heavier to ride with different cornering requirements as well as difficulties with balance when starting to ride and when walking the bicycle with the children loaded. It also has an electric-assist and is much more expensive than a standard commuter bike, resulting in security concerns when leaving the cargo bike locked up.




Jacqui's presentation provided an in-depth examination of potential ‘pain points’ and concerns for her planned journey. This journey began with cycling from her grandpa’s home to a train station, riding the train, and then cycling from the train station to her home. Some of these concerns included navigating fenced corners, paths, and entrances, reaching the station platform using the lift (unsure whether her cargo bike would fit inside the elevator), getting on and off the train, and manoeuvring inside the train while keeping track of her children, the cargo bike, and entertaining them during the journey.





Other potential difficulties involved getting her children on the bicycle again after her arrival at the destination train station, walking while balancing the heavy load with her children on the bicycle through the train station before she could begin cycling again outside. During a quick stop at the shops before arriving at her final destination, she worried about her children running out onto a busy road while locking and unlocking the cargo bike. Finally, after passing all of these hurdles, they would arrive home. Additional challenges included: managing tired children who may get grumpy and/or fall asleep on the return trip home and going up hills: Even with the electric assist, two children on her bike is quite a heavy load, and Jacqui had concerns that she might need to stop and then have difficulty starting again on the slope.


Jacqui’s suggestions to accommodate cargo bike riders included analysing corners to allow for wider turns, information about lift dimensions with public transport so cargo bike riders can plan trips more easily, adding ramps and smoothing bumps wherever possible, rethinking gates or barriers at cycle path entrances, and how to make cycle parking both more secure to prevent theft and to keep children safe while parents are loading/unloading or locking/unlocking bike.


In breakout rooms, the group discussed Jacqui’s challenges and brainstormed ideas to address them. Some ideas from the group included traffic calming the roads near popular destinations for families and/or providing soft barriers such as bushes separating bike racks and motor vehicle traffic to prevent children from running into a busy road while locking and unlocking up a bicycle. Another suggestion was to try the journey first on her own to practice navigating entrance gates, lifts, and trains with a cargo bike before attempting it with her children, who may be less patient and flexible with potential difficulties and changes to the planned journey.


Jacqui’s plan for her journey was very ambitious and required lots of thoughtful preparation. We’re interested to find out if she’s attempted her journey since her presentation, and if so, how did it go?


In the following BUX Network session, we dug a little deeper into a persona of a parent riding a cargo bike with children in suburban Australia. Bicycle User Experience founder Trey Hahn also gave a more detailed explanation about developing personas. To learn more about using personas to improve the design of cycling infrastructure and the bicycle user experience, check out this resource and/or module 4 of the course User Experience for Inclusive Cycling in Cities.


About

Jacqui Hicks is a transport planner in Newcastle, Australia. She has explored transport in various ways, including cycling advocacy, completing her PhD in travel behaviour, making a film called A Way We Go about urban transport experiences around the world, and spending a lot of her life taking buses, trains, riding bikes, walking around and the many other ways we get around our cities. Jacqui is also the author of a children's picture book called Jill's Joyful Ride. Check out her blog post to learn more about Jacqui's own journey in learning to ride a bicycle as an adult and how she came to write this book.

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