In praise of the bike trailer: a cargo bike for the rest of us

visibility matters photo
CC BY 2.0 Sami Grover

When I lived in Copenhagen, I coveted The Christiania Bike. Now I live in Durham, NC, I confess to jealous side-glances at the folks whizzing around on their ELFs. And as cargo bikes have gotten more common in cities across the Globe, I am repeatedly struck by what a statement it makes to see a bike designed and built with utility in mind.

It's easy to forget, however, that the humble bike itself—cargo or not—is a pretty amazing tool. And that's particularly true with the simple addition of a bike trailer. I already wrote about how, having scored a free bike trailer from my neighbors, I finally took the plunge and biked the kids to the farmers' market.

Since then, I've also used the trailer to cart groceries—including several bottles of wine and a case or two of beer—back from the store, and it couldn't have been easier. What's great about a trailer set up like this, besides the affordability (ours was free, but the same InStep double trailer is available for only $159), is that when it's not in use, the trailer detaches and I have a normal bike again.

I don't mean to suggest that trailers are better than dedicated cargo bikes. That's a silly argument. It's a sad fact in the green movement that we tend to get in arguments about which is better: electric bikes or traditional ones, wind or solar, EVs or mass transit. These are all straw man arguments that distract us from the reality that we need a variety of tools and approaches to move us toward a low carbon future.

I'm simply reminding folks that, if you've been hankering after a cargo bike but can't or don't want to shell out for a fancy model, there may be a cheaper option out there that could serve you just as well.

Too much stuff or too many kids to haul in a trailer? No problem, you can just get two:

Related Content on