Tag Archives: cargo

Moroccan Bike Scene 1: Carrying things

I’ve been a bit silent the past weeks due to the holidays. Last week I escaped Europe and fled to Morocco for a refreshing change of pace. Of course, I took lots of pictures of the local bike scene which seemed quite strong. One of the most fun things to shoot is always cargo, so I’ll start there.

This isn’t the first tree I’ve seen on a bike, but it is the first orange tree complete with fruits that I’ve ever seen.
These saddlebags are super cool, but seemed a bit small to be terribly practical at least for something I might use. It would be interesting to dig in a bit deeper into how they use them since I saw a lot of them like this in Marrakesh.
Another nice saddlebag. Note the locking strategy is quite similar to Copenhagen.
This was storage for a yogurt seller’s wares. He wouldn’t let me take his picture but he offered me some of his yogurt. Given that it was homemade and not kept very cool (no ice in those coolers!), I decided I’d take a pass on the risk of getting a stomach bug.
I like the back seat here for passengers.
These carriers were super cool too but wouldn’t fit if you had to cram them into excessively “efficient” and “organized” European style sardine can parking spaces.

Stay tuned for more posts on Morocco coming soon….

Urban Delivery Bike Service Concept

I worked on a competition proposal together with Adaptive Path and De FietsFabriek to develop an innovative new bicycling service for the city of Copenhagen for the Global Living Labs Service Innovation in Cities conference. It was rather challenging to put something together for the city that already has it all. I think this is one of the reasons why Copenhagen keeps a top position amongst biking cities: constantly innovating and working to improve itself.

Our concept was an urban bicycle delivery service. Delivery vehicles contribute significantly to urban traffic and are often driving at only half capacity. The key concept was to build a set of standardized boxes of different sizes and types that could stack together onto the bike. These containers could be rented or owned by local companies who could have their own branded logos on them. We would then build a standardized bike that could carry these stackable boxes. Finally, there would be a real time routing system that would make it easier for customers to get dynamic pick-ups and drops offs. This would be simpler for the delivery company in part because the load and distance of the service area would be smaller (more comparable to a bike delivery service).

The event organizers liked the concept but didn’t select it as the winner in the end. Unfortunately, Copenhagen wasn’t so into it. Why? Well, because Copenhagen being its typical tiny and perfect self doesn’t think it has a delivery truck issue (they claim, although that’s not entirely true if you see this image).

Copenhagen also has very little traffic in general. Their rush hour is probably less than one hour in the morning and evening. My conclusion at the end of the conference was that we were probably pitching to the wrong audience. We should be talking to a bigger city with bigger problems (eg, New York) and possibly even a big shipping company (eg, DHL) instead of the city government.

An earlier Adaptive Path blog post on the concept

A photo from the event with Willem Boijens from Adaptive Path presenting feedback from a workshop on our concept. That’s me in the foreground!

Here’s our official entry

Any tips for how to push this further or feedback on the concept welcome!

Using our bikes to go sledding

It snowed all week so we decided to go sledding this weekend. The bike lanes were a bit sloppy and certainly didn’t look like they had been “plowed before the roads” as the municipality advertises but were nonetheless bikeable if you don’t mind  getting a bit muddy and risking sliding on ice and snow.

We didn’t have a sled so we called up our friend who had a lovely old fashioned one he let us borrow. It was a bit tricky to figure out how to rig it up but Ayako was quite industrious.

When we got there, we realized we weren’t the only ones who had decided to bring our bikes to the sledding hill.

In particular, there were a lot of cargo bicycles which are much more suitable for carrying kids and sleds through the snow and muck. Much like a modern day sleigh.

We even saw this red FietsFabriek bike from Holland. Eventually, we’ll have to get us one of these when we find the need for a bike SUV. For now, we’ll just gerry rig it again next time.

Copenhagen city archeologists ride customized cargo bikes

So, obviously, the mail gets delivered by bicycle in Copenhagen. But now there’s a custom bicycle for a lesser known urban profession: archeologists. The entire city is getting dug up to put in a new metro system which means that urban archeologists are scurrying around town making sure each cultural artifact uncovered is carefully taken care of.

The Copenhagen City Museum has provided them with their own custom cargo bikes to carry all their tools, lunchbox, etc.  They say it saves them the hassle of parking and a lot of time, especially with the green waves that time lights on major streets so  you sail through town at 20 km/h during rush hour.

Harvesting sea buckthorn on Vestamager Fælled

Ayako and I went for a bike ride out to Vest Amagerfælled just south of Copenhagen. We had made a list of wild things we wanted to pick which included plums, hazelnuts, elderberries, sea buckthorn, mushrooms, rosehips, and blackberries. We succeeded in getting most of them during the weekend…

The first one we came across was sea buckthorn. We had tried juice made of this when we were in Amsterdam, but haven’t found it in Copenhagen. Apparently, you can also make a nice jam out of it. It is very tart and citrusy and high in Vitamin C. The berries grow in tight little clusters on the stem on a bush about 3 meters tall. There are lots of little thorns and the stalk is quite thick so it’s best to carry good clippers. The berries are hard to get off so the best way is supposedly to cut whole branches off, flash freeze them and then hit the berries off into a bucket.

sea buckthorn harvest with flowers

Near the sea buckthorn bushes, we also found some lovely fall flowers. Throughout the day, Ayako collected lots of pretty fall colors for us to put up in the house.

The elastic strap I got in Holland fits on my bike no problem but doesn’t really work with the saddlebags unless I cut a hole in the top. It  requires an attachment that I had left at home to fit onto Ayako’s bike. We got a bit creative though and wrapped the strap around itself and the package holder on the back of the bike which held up just fine.

Looking out onto the Baltic Sea.

I got a flat tire just at the end of the trip riding on a dirt road, which is what I get for offroading with my city bike! Fortunately, it was  right next to the end of the metro line that runs past our apartment. Lucky for us, there was also a bike pump put up by I Bike CPH (run by the municipality) at the metro station. The pump itself was a bit tricky to use since you had to line up the tire valve at the bottom of the tire and put it right next to the pump or it wouldn’t work, but otherwise it was a saving grace! Since it was just a slow leak, I could put in enough air to hold me to just enough to get me home.  It was nice to get a free ride home instead of having to bike all the way back and I would have really been in trouble if I couldn’t take my bike on the metro 15 km from home with a flat tire!

After we got home, we were quite tired from biking some 30 km with a load of about 6-7 kg of sea buckthorn and another 2-3 kg of elderberries plus a large load of flowers. But thanks to my lovely Dutch saddlebags, and some ingenuity, we managed to pack it all in no problem. Another lovely weekend biking outing!

Laundry by bike

My new place in Copenhagen doesn’t have a laundry so I’m stuck with the old laundromat. It’s cheaper to do a huge load at once, especially when it’s $5 a load. But I can pack 7 kgs easy between my paniers and a messenger bag.

The bag, by the way, was won by my friend Austin Pferd (aka, Horse) who is a world class bicycle messenger in New York.

Car shaped cargo bicycle parking

This is a pilot cargo bicycle parking in Copenhagen. You can fit 4 cargo bicycles inside of the molded plastic car, which just goes to show how much less space even a cargo bike takes up on the street. I love how there was even a hook inside for helmets and it protects your bike from the rain.

Using a trailer to move across town in Copenhagen

Today I moved some boxes that had been stored in the attic of my old apartment in Copenhagen while I was traveling around in Holland, Cambodia and India for the past few months. Now I’m living in a different apartment so I had to move stuff over.

Of course, I used my friend’s bike trailer, which her parents used to use on family holidays. She has golden memories of sitting in the back with her brother on long bike tours.

I had a pump because the tire has a slow leak and some bungee cords. I put a few pumps into the tire, latched it on the hitch under the seat and then hit the road. I opted for the fastest option which was a busy road (Jagtveg) but has a segregated lane the whole way.

I loaded up my boxes with some help from my old housemate. We figured it was maybe 25 kg. Managed to keep it on quite nicely with the bungees. Nothing fell out the whole way home (6 km) and I never needed to readjust. I took a slightly longer way to take the cycle highway for the last stretch. The hill over the bridge was a bit tricky but otherwise no problems.

Skilled packer and helpful mover, Lasse.

Fun at De Fietsfabriek!

I went down and visited the folks at the dutch bike company De Fietsfabriek (The Bike Factory). They are all built in a factory in one of the founders’ Turkish home town. I love their mass customization approach where they have several basic models but you can choose from a variety of colors, laser cut anything you want written into the frame or even custom order something unique. Here are some of my favorites.

This is their most popular seller- the 995. I took it for a spin. Quite a nice ride!

This is a grocery delivery bike which was custom made for a 16 year-old entrepreneur. You order online from a local organic grocer and he brings it to you. Apparently he and his friend are quite successful. I took it for a test drive. It was pretty big and heavy and turns were big but otherwise did the job well. I think you could fit an (organic) horse in it.

This is for those who gave up their SUVs to drive their kids but still want to feel like they are driving a car. Or it’s just fun for the kids.

You can rent this for riding through the city after your wedding. Who needs a limo anymore?

When you enter their store, they have all these crazy cool bikes they have collected. Here are some of my favorites- the rocking horse bike and the disco ball bike behind it.

This is another style of box bike they make. This one is in their repair shop which is just next to the sales floor.

Be sure to check out their “Bakfiets to Obama” plan online to ride a bicycle to DC from Turkey via Amsterdam and many other states in the US to raise awareness around the simplest way to reduce car emissions in the US by 30%.

All in all, I loved the place. Great bikes and great people. Check them out at http://www.fietsfabriek.nl/.

Moving from Amsterdam to Copenhagen by train with my bike

So I decided to take the train when I moved back from Amsterdam to Copenhagen so I could take my bicycle (and a bunch of stuff). I bought the ticket through the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) online site because they are one of the few train companies in Europe that sell international tickets. However, they didn’t include the special additional bicycle ticket.

So I had to go down to Amsterdam Centraal in person and pay an extra 10 euro service fee in addition to the 12 euro bicycle ticket.

I was hoping to get to ride this charming beauty, which one of the founders of De Fietsfabrik was going to lend me for free. But the once-in-5-years Sail festival was going on and the streets were clogged with people and traffic. My (small, Japanese) girlfriend didn’t feel comfortable riding it back from the station alone. It was probably a good decision to skip it though it was a very cool cargo bike.

I had to leave my bike at the station, go to my apartment by light rail, pick up my bags and bring them back to the station by light rail. It took a bit longer than expected and I might have missed my train but the door to one of the Russian trains was delayed and we left 20 minutes late. There was no ramp to get up the steps to the car so it was tough to get it in. It was also tough to lock the frame since the rack was designed just for the wheel. I left some clothes in my saddlebags and hunkered into my seat for the 18 hour ride.

My companions were a Dutch guy in his early 20s who was doing an exchange program in northern Sweden (Umeå). I don’t think he really understood that it was 35 hours of train rides away until he sat down in the car. We were later joined by a Danish woman who had a super cute mixed girl.

I got into Copenhagen only an hour delayed. My friend was supposed to pick me up but we had a problem. Nowhere for him to park his bicycle with an attached trailer and no elevator or ramp on the stairs. I had too much stuff to move and he couldn’t leave his bike. Finally, I put all my stuff balanced on my bike, locked my bike on the platform and then we quickly hauled it up the stairs.

His tire was losing air so we had to keep pumping it up but managed to find my new place a couple km away. It was a bit tricky but felt nice to come home on a bicycle. Special thanks to Tim and Ayako for their help!