The Cargo Bike Revolution Hits New York City

So many kids in the epic new video from Streetfilms.

Cargo biking families in NYC


Clarence Eckerson, Jr.'s "Streetfilms" have been regulars on Treehugger for many years, usually short tales about life on bikes in the streets of New York City. His latest is almost feature-length at 13 minutes and is all about how cargo bikes are booming. He notes that, "it used to be rare you'd see one, but the last five years their presence has undoubtedly been on the rise and since Covid-19 hit in 2020 there has been a dramatic uptick."

What I found so surprising is that these bikes were carrying kids, not cargo. Lots of them, everywhere. This is in a city where I have cycled a lot, and I am not entirely certain I would be comfortable with a kid in a cargo bike. We have said that three things are needed for the e-bike revolution: good affordable bikes, safe places to ride, and secure places to park. You really do not see any of these in the video.

At seven minutes you can see that all the bike lanes are filled with delivery vehicles and police cars; really, only the fully protected bike lanes really exist. But Eckerson tells Treehugger that people manage.

"Actually we purposely travel on slower streets, ones with nice bike lanes or our NEW 1st ever bike blvd!! So for most of our trips I’d say no, though there are occasional times you get angry. I think most parents go slower with kids, take few risks and find safer (even if longer routes) i mean I can’t recall in 10+ years hearing about some seriously being injured or killed on a cargo bike with a kid."

Eckerson points us to an earlier video that shows some wonderful new bike infrastructure that anyone would feel safe riding in—so things are clearly looking up.

And then there is the issue of parking: It is hard to carry a cargo bike upstairs. The video shows an Oonee storage shed (seen also on Treehugger) but they are not big enough for cargo bikes and there aren't many of them. Eckerson tells Treehugger:

"Right now I’m sure the structures they’ve done wouldn’t fit a cargo bike but they are expanding fast and getting good contracts to build many more structures in buildings according to their tweets. I know they have numerous types of structures—some bigger and some smaller—they already have schematics for and they are supposedly building new bike parking in large apt complexes being planned or under construction. So i think the Oonee reference is in general to say we need more bike parking and more types for all bikes."

Then, of course, there is winter. Are they still out there?

"Winter: I find most of these folks are pretty hardcore though I’ll say yesterday in 15 windchill (lowest temp I have ever ridden) I had to ride my bike 10 miles for a service to repair brakes and there were noticeably fewer people biking in NYC. I think 35-40 degrees no longer limits folks but once you go below that (we’ve had some awfully cold days here) it kind of is a factor."
Cargo bikes everywhere


All of Eckerson's videos are impressive, but the real stars of this epic are the families out there on their cargo bikes. This is how change happens when there are enough people on bikes, e-bikes, and cargo bikes that the politicians, planners, and police have to start taking them seriously. A commenter notes that "New York becomes New Amsterdam again." It has a long way to go for that, but it's a start.