Whether it’s dropping off kids at nursery or goods to customers, cargo bikes are increasingly seen whizzing around Swiss cities. This trend is the result of advances with e-bike technology – in Switzerland, riders need help with the many steep hills.
On the streets of Bern, cargo bikes are still the exception, but more and more people are using them. Sohan Lal, a former rickshaw driverexternal link from New Delhi, uses one to show tourists around the Swiss capital.
Andreas Tanner frequently chauffeurs his two-year-old son through Bern in the box at the front of his bicycle. A couple of months ago, instead of a second car he and his wife bought a cargo bike for CHF6,000 ($6,170). Since then they have notched up some 500 kilometres doing their shopping and, above all, taking his son to the nursery and then going on to work.
Compared with cars, cargo bikes are cheaper, better for the environment and zippier in city traffic – plus there’s hardly ever an issue with parking. Parents can keep a constant eye on their (human or non-human) cargo, since the box is in front of them, not like a trailer.
In the past year, more and more cargo bikes belonging to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have been seen on the streets of Bern. These companies are taking part in the project “Mir sattlä umexternal link” (we’re resaddling), which is looking into the potential of cargo bikes in commercial trade.
As part of this, SMEs from various sectors can use cargo bikes for free and see what it’s like transporting their wares with them. One participant is Chäsbuebexternal link, a specialist cheesemonger.
“Among our regular customers are a few restaurants,” Chäsbueb’s marketing manager Brigitte Niklaus tells swissinfo.ch. “The roads are often blocked or closed to motorised vehicles and there’s nowhere to park.”
Niklaus says staff also benefit from the switch to bicycles. “They’re outside in the fresh air and move around more.”
One such employee is Kurt Staudenmann, who uses the cargo bike for deliveries twice a week and says he prefers doing so by cargo bike than by car.
“The bike is more efficient. I can get practically everywhere,” said Staudenmann, whose bike can reach speeds of 40km/h, with the battery lasting all day.
E-bikes in Switzerland
Cargo bikes, a common sight in cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are now gaining popularity in Swiss cities – largely thanks to developments in e-bikes, which boosts a cyclist’s pedal power. In Switzerland, flat stretches are the exception rather than the rule.
In 2016, almost a quarter of the 324,581 bikes sold were e-bikes. Today, there are more than 400,000 e-bikes on Swiss roads.
Cargo bikes are still a niche market and they are not counted separately in the bicycle statistics, but cycling lobby Pro Veloexternal link says their sales are increasing.end of infobox
(Translated from German by Thomas Stephens), swissinfo.ch