Thursday, June 24, 2010

Transporting Stuff in Bike Trailers

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about recovering from the Gulf oil spill and from oil dependency overall. The first introduces the series.

Yesterday’s post on cargo bikes touched on some creative ways to haul feight without fossil fuel. Bike trailers provide yet another means of moving goods via human power. I like bike trailers for their versatility. They come in a variety of designs, you can take them on and off a bike as needed, and you can stow stuff in them just as you might toss things into the trunk of a car.

Bike trailers are astonishingly adaptable. I’ve known people who have hauled canoes on them for camping trips, as well as people who use them to carry their pets (and children!). A few landscape services use bike trailers to haul their tools to jobs, and some of the services that use cargo bikes also use trailers to expand their hauling capacity.

My own bike trailer (pictured above left) is pretty basic but serves nicely for things like grocery shopping, hauling books to the library, or doing several errands at a time. I generally use it if I have to carry more than will fit on my bike rack or in panniers. It’s not fancy but I’ve had it for years and it suits my needs. The collapsible feature means it’s not as sturdy as other trailers, but it’s darn easy to store.

The heavy-duty trailers built by Bikes at Work occupy the other end of the quality spectrum. If cargo bikes can be likened to pickup trucks, then Bikes at Work trailers can turn a standard bicycle into a semi. You can see where I got this idea from the photo below.

The two heavy-duty Bikes at Work trailers above are on a house-moving job

Each of the two Bikes at Work trailers above can haul a load up to 300 pounds. When the company was founded, its services included hauling recyclables in Ames, Iowa (last I heard, that service had split off into a separate organization). Bikes at Work also maintains an impressive Carfree Information section on its website, a great go-to source for anyone wanting to get off oil.

I’ll close today’s post with a mention of another bike trailer I own. This one goes with my Bike Friday folding bike, and it’s a suitcase trailer. The bike itself folds and disassembles to fit into the suitcase for easy transport on a train or bus (or plane, for those who fly with them). When the bike is re-assembled ( a process that takes just a few minutes, if you’re good at it) the suitcase hooks on to the bike’s rear hub and can carry your other luggage.

In Toronto on one of my car-free book tours with my Bike Friday New World Tourist folding bike and suitcase trailer

This Bike Friday suitcase trailer is plenty big for the two duffel bags I used when I set off on several car-free book tours after writing Divorce Your Car! This set-up enabled me to transition easily from train to bus to bike travel as I journeyed literally thousands of miles without using a car. My goal in doing this echoed the reason I wrote the book: to demonstrate how many great alternatives we have to petroleum-based car travel.

More tomorrow!