A basic cargo bike in 1939 would set you back £18; the equivalent of £972 in today’s money. The relatively low price got us thinking about how a sub-grand cargo bike could help revolutionise the urban streets of 2023.
When it comes to moving people around a city, cars are distinctly sub-optimal. Quite apart from damage to the environment and road danger, it’s a matter of physics; most cities simply don’t have the space to accommodate one car per inhabitant – not to mention those used by visitors.
By contrast, every city can comfortably store a bicycle for every one of its people. It’s a fallacy that cars are a city’s lifeblood and that it’s impossible for households to carry heavy or bulky loads without them; you just need a cargo bike.
Why can’t I buy a cargo bike for less than £1,000?
As we’ve learned, there’s nothing new about cargo bikes, but why have they shot up in price over recent years?
Once you’ve taken inflation into account, the cargo bike of 1939 pictured above, cost £972. So why are cargo bikes so expensive now by comparison? A Babboe Big cargo trike with electric assist might set you back around £3,000, but an equivalent cargo cycle from China costs about one fifth of that price.
We’re not suggesting that everything about the two bikes is exactly the same. but there are plenty of people who’d overlook the differences to make use of a £600 e-cargo trike. However, despite our globalised world, don’t expect to get your hands on a sub-£1,000 cargo bike anytime soon.
So-called ‘anti-dumping’ measures (dumping refers to when a country exports at a price lower than it normally charges in its own home market) have seen tariffs of over 60 per cent applied to e-bikes from China. It’s a form of protectionism that safeguards domestic suppliers, but keeps prices higher than they might otherwise be.
Another reason electric bicycles remain beyond the reach of many is they’re not eligible for government grants in the same way as electric cars. It’s a missed opportunity because in terms of price, range and usability the bicycle is the most practical type of electric vehicle available today.
EVs of every description are currently in development; from small aircraft to jet skis. However, batteries remain expensive, heavy and troublesome to charge; unless you’re talking about bicycles, which are easy to convert to electric power and use batteries light enough to be carried into a house for re-charging. Oh, and e-bikes are the ultimate hybrid; if a battery runs flat, there’s always leg power to get you home.
Electric cargo bikes on a budget
A pedal trike with a cargo box like the vintage models pictured above costs from about £1,800 – count on at least another £500 to add an electric motor. However, what if you like the idea of a utility bike but can’t store a cargo trike?
The Tern GSD‘s slim width, high-spec and sharp looks kickstarted an urban love affair with the small-wheeled cargo bike, but at a price.
For those unable or unwilling to stretch to £5,000 for the GSD, French sporting goods giant Decathlon offers a cheaper alternative in the shape of its £3,500 D500 (about £1,000 cheaper if you buy it in France and bring it home yourself), and there’s now a homegrown alternative snapping at its heels.
The mycycle cargo bike starts at £1,999 for the entry level model, which boasts a range of 60km. To the basic specification you can add an impressive array of optional accessories as well as a battery upgrade that doubles the distance you can travel with power assist.
Cargo bike insurance
Cargo bikes offer a clean, quiet and cost-effective way to carry stuff that’s too bulky for a conventional bicycle. However, the fact they’re bigger and heavier can make a breakdown troublesome. Even the shortest journey comes to an abrupt halt in the event of a flat tyre, broken chain or buckled wheel and carrying kids or cargo adds an unwelcome dimension to being stuck.
Insure your cargo bike with the ETA and on top of other great benefits, you’ll get Cycle Rescue – the first breakdown cover policy for bicycles and one that covers cargo bikes recumbents and tandems.
If you suffer a breakdown (including punctures) while out cycling, or are unable to continue due to an injury, our 24-hour Cycle Rescue team is on hand to arrange transport for you and your cycle to a safe location.
Every insurance policy includes the following as standard:
- Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
- Cycle Rescue
- No devaluation of your bike over time
- £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
- Shed and garage storage
- Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)
- You and your family on your bike
Read a full list of everything we include.
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.