Fantastic to see more people on bikes with children

In rush hour, in some parts of the Outdoor City, the school run has become the school ride for a growing number of lucky children.

By David Bocking
Friday, 27th May 2022, 11:43 am
Rachel Evans's cargo bike with her kids at night
Rachel Evans's cargo bike with her kids at night

“It makes lots of people smile and wave passing by, and we are getting more and more questions about it,” said Rachel Evans of her new Urban Arrow cargo bike. “All the school kids want a turn, and they call it ‘the bike bus.’ We’ve seen a lot more cargo bikes in the city during the 18 months that we’ve had ours, but also lots more people on bikes with children, which is fantastic.”

Tori Gray, shop manager at the A Different Gear community bike shop in Heeley, says shop sales and hires of e-cargo bikes have boomed this spring.

“Over the last two months, the hire of e-cargo bikes has been six times higher than the whole year before,” she said. “We’re getting 2 or 3 people a week asking to hire a bike now, and often they’re going on to buy one. Last year we were getting a hire every few months.”

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Joss Redfern and children collecting a Christmas tree on his cargo bike

A Different Gear began their e-cargo bike hire service 6 years ago, when the idea of riding a huge cargo bike around Sheffield was seen as eccentric, to say the least. Now, says Tori, many people see the idea makes sense, particularly for school transport.

“I think the cost of fuel comes into it, but a lot of people are seeing other people using them and saying ‘I want one of those. I don’t want to use my car for the school run.’ People are already getting more conscious about the environment, and often they’re saying they don’t want to have a second car, or it’s becoming too expensive to run two cars,” she said.

E-cargo bikes are not cheap compared to normal bikes, but A Different Gear have established themselves as a hub for booming e-bike sales and hires across the north, with a variety of cargo bikes to try out at £20 a day or £100 a week, most capable of carrying two kids, or a big shop or a range of business kit.

“The idea that £5,000 is a lot to pay for a bike has changed,” says Tori. “People are saying if that’s the cost of not having a second car now, it balances out.”

A Different Gear shop manager Tori Gray with some of the shop's e-cargo bikes

Chris and his family now have two e-cargo bikes used for family and business transport.

“They’ve genuinely changed our lives,” he said. “We used to sit in 20 minutes of traffic on the school run, then struggle to find somewhere to park, and would invariably end up being late. We now sail past traffic, it takes 7 minutes door to door, and we can literally cycle into the playground.”

New e-cargo bike owners say better local infrastructure is needed to help less confident cyclists make the jump to e-bikes, and they’d like to see tax breaks for e-bikes similar to those being lined up for e-cars and vans, as the cost is still a big deterrent for many. (Tori admits most recent purchases have been made by people in the south west of the city.)

Better secure parking in the city is also needed, say owners, and Tori advises spending on a decent gold or diamond standard lock to deter thieves. Her own bikes are fitted with a tracker, and she says the message to thieves is working: “Steal an e-bike with a hidden tracker, and the owner can immediately tell the police where you (and the bike) are!”

Neil Cooke from A Different Gear with an Urban Arrow e-cargo bike

Sheffield photographer Nate Dainty, says his e-cargo bike is practical and fun. “Yesterday I picked my 6 year old son up from school and he said ‘let’s go to Ladybower!’ so off we went, with the motor helping us over the hill and back!”

"Parents pretty much despise the school run,” said Chris. “We did before we got our cargo bike and now it’s easily the best part of our day.”

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George Stammers from A Different Gear with a Benno Boost e-cargo bike
A Different Gear shop manager Tori Gray and George Stammers on a Tern GSD