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:

In praise of the bike trailer: a cargo bike for the rest of us
You don't need to spend several thousand dollars to be able to haul stuff on your bike. For many of us, an inexpensive trailer may be the best option.

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