Cargo bikes: Who needs fuel anyway?

cargo bike

The best cargo bikes might cost the same as a secondhand car, but their widespread uptake in cities would have a transformative effect on our collective quality of life. Most importantly, they offer many the opportunity to ditch the car and avoid expensive running costs.

Imagine school run congestion, and the associated road danger, replaced with a procession of sturdy bikes – their cargo boxes brimming with kids. And if you worry your thighs aren’t quite up to the job of carrying the combined weight of up between two and four kids, there are electric motors available as an optional extra.

electric bicycle grants, Madsen cargo bike

We love the look of the cargo bikes made by Madsen. They’re an American firm but offer international shipping. See

Most people will be unable to spend thousands on a cargo bike, while at the same time running a car. But for those who can replace private car ownership with public transport, rental vehicles, car share club – or a combination of all three when needed – they can make financial as well as environmental sense.

Giving up a car in favour of a cargo bike

Giving up a car in favour of a cargo bike and in the process saying goodbye to fuel crisis queues, insurance, VED, petrol, resident permits, parking charges and fines, servicing costs and devaluation – not to mention the gym membership you’ll no longer need – can save the average city driver over £3,500 every year.

Elsewhere in Europe, the bicycle is considered a practical alternative to the car and cargo designs are used to carry loads of up to 250 kg. In Britain,  faced with a growing number of parcels, the Post Office has fazed out bicycle deliveries. By contrast, and in a perfect illustration of the European attitude towards cycling as a mode of transport, in Germany they developed a larger and stronger cargo bicycle to cope with the extra demand.

While most cargo bikes tend to be heavy and relatively slow, some designs manage to blend performance and practicality.

Butchers and Bicycles MK1

Carrying kids by cargo bike

Cargo trikes are being bought in increasing numbers in London, not only by businesses looking for an environmentally-friendly way of bypassing the congestion charge, but by parents looking for a practical and fun alternative to the car for the school run.

When it comes to transporting young children by bike, especially on the school run, there are various options to choose between. By far the simplest and most popular is the child seat fitted onto the rear rack, but on a standard bike it is not possible to carry more than one child in this way.

christiania cargo bike

In Denmark many families with two or more kids, have turned to the Christiania. There is a choice between a standard-sized model, which can fit two to three kids, and a longer version, which can comfortably seat four to six. The box where the kids sit is in front, so everyone gets a good view, while the rider can keep an eye on the kids.

The Madsen Cargo Bike is like any other bicycle features an extended frame equipped with a tub large sturdy enough to carry 250 kg. The advantage it has over the trikes is that it’s easier to store and park if space is tight.

Ethical cycle insurance

On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. Check your small print for so-called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use the term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it. With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. Oh, and we welcome cargo trikes and electric bikes.

Every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future. Little wonder The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be Britain’s most ethical provider.


  1. P Gillott


    Given that you’re talking of these as a practical possibility, and refer to how much they cost, it would be good to have some example prices.

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