World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Freight bicycle

Article Id: WHEBN0000289894
Reproduction Date:

Title: Freight bicycle  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Utility cycling, Outline of bicycles, Bicycle, Bicycle trailer, Luggage carrier
Collection: Appropriate Technology, Cycle Types
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Freight bicycle

Traditional Dutch cargo tricycle or "bakfiets"
Modern long-wheelbase freight bicycle from Amsterdam
A modern cargo trike in use in London, featuring electric assist
Mother with two children in The Hague (Netherlands)

Freight bicycles, carrier cycles, freight tricycles, cargo bikes, box bikes, or cycletrucks are human powered vehicles designed and constructed specifically for transporting loads. Vehicle designs include a cargo area consisting of an open or enclosed box, a flat platform, or a wire basket, usually mounted over one or both wheels, low behind the front wheel, or between parallel wheels at either the front or rear of the vehicle. The Bicycle frame and drivetrain must be constructed to handle loads larger than those on an ordinary bicycle.


  • Development 1
  • Common uses 2
  • Considerations 3
  • Types 4
    • Cycle truck 4.1
    • Butcher's bike 4.2
    • Boda-boda 4.3
    • Long John bicycle 4.4
    • Longtail bicycle 4.5
    • Wooden freight bicyle 4.6
    • Porteur bicycle 4.7
    • Tricycles 4.8
  • Cargo capability 5
  • Gallery 6
  • Designers and manufacturers 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9


The first freight bicycles were used by tradesmen to deliver mail, bread and milk amongst other things. Early freight bicycles were heavy-duty standard bicycles, with heavy carriers at front or rear, sometimes with a smaller front wheel to accommodate a large front carrier. During the early part of the 20th Century these were commonly used by tradespeople for local deliveries. In the UK this style is still sometimes known as a butcher's bike or delibike, although the Post Office have by far the largest fleet; a more formal name is porteur bicycle.

With the domination of the internal combustion engine in the industrialized countries after World War II, freight bikes became less popular. In the rest of the world, however, they continued to be manufactured and heavily used. In the 1980s in Europe, and the 1990s in the US, ecologically-minded designers and small-scale manufacturers initiated a revival of the freight bike manufacturing sector.

Common uses

Freight bikes are used in a variety of settings:

  • Delivery services in dense urban environments
  • Food vending in high foot traffic areas (including specialist ice cream bikes)
  • Transporting trade tools, including around large installations such as power stations and CERN
  • Airport cargo handling
  • Recycling collections
  • Warehouse inventory transportation
  • Mail delivery (The UK post office operates a fleet of 33,000 bicycles, mainly the Pashley MailStar)
  • Child transport; it is estimated that 90% of the freight bicycles sold in Amsterdam are used primarily to carry children.

In Amsterdam, it is common to rent a worktrike to move one's belongings, have a party in a park or promote a new product. Furniture retailer IKEA is also testing a freight bike rental program to allow residents of Copenhagen to transport new purchases.[1]

Because of the strong economic advantages realizable by widespread proliferation of freight bicycles, Oxfam has designed the OxTrike & established local production at community workshops in non-industrialized countries for use in non-industrialized countries worldwide. Dangdang, China’s biggest online bookseller, uses 30 bicycle courier companies in 12 cities to deliver goods and collect payments. Karaba, a free-trade coffee co-op in Rwanda, uses 400 modified bicycles to carry hundreds of pounds of coffee beans to be processed.[2]

In the U.S., "Cargo Bikes" are becoming quite popular with families, especially in pedal-friendly communities. Families are using the bikes to do everything they do with cars — taking the kids to school, hauling groceries or running errands — without the hassle of finding parking. Some do it to help the environment or to exercise, while others say it is an easier, more fun way to get around.[3]


Freight bicycles have a number of advantages over motorised vehicles:

  • They do not create air pollution problems (e.g. enclosed warehouses and industrial plants)
  • They are less costly to operate
  • They are not limited by the availability of fuel

A limitation of any human-powered vehicle is the relative weakness of human power compared to many motors, leaving a narrow scope for balancing tare weight, payload, geographical and topographical range against each other. These limitations might in some cases dissuade some people from using cargo bikes, whereas others still find them useful, and have been in increasing numbers.[4][5]

Some cargo bike makers and users utilize power assist motors to complement the power of the cyclist.[6] Power assist can increase the payload and range of cargo bikes, but also increases the cost of the bicycle and requires on-board fuel or other energy storage.

Because of the unavoidable physical demands on a driver who also has to propel the vehicle, and the lack of protection against either the elements or other traffic, there is also a potential for working conditions becoming a problem. Technical efforts to improve conditions are hampered by the need for low weight and sturdy simplicity to achieve low costs in small-scale operations.


In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, freight bikes are extremely popular. In Amsterdam many residents simply fit large front carriers to sturdy city bicycles. There is also a broad variety of specially made freight bikes including low-loading two-wheelers with extended wheelbases, bicycles with small front wheels to fit huge front carriers, tadpole-type three-wheelers with a box between the two front wheels. Varieties used elsewhere include a platform, basket etc. instead of the box, the loading area between two rear wheels (delta-fashion), small-wheel two-wheelers loading both back and front. An occasional four-wheeler can also be seen, especially within a plant, warehouse or the like, where demands on stability and loading capacity are higher than on range.

Cycle truck

The Cycle truck refers to a type of freight bicycle with a smaller front wheel than rear, typically 26 inches (66 cm) rear and 20 inches (51 cm) front.

Butcher's bike

Typical 1930's Butcher's Bike, in the Forest of Dean

Also referred to as a Baker's bike, however this style of freight bicycle was popular with a wide variety of trades during the first half of the 20th century, particularly in the United Kingdom. Typically, they would have a basket or storage box mounted within a framework which was fixed to the front of the bike. Often, they would also feature a sign advertising the business concerned, which would be attached within the main triangle of the bicycle frame.[7]

Their popularity declined significantly towards the end of the 1950s, with the increase of motorised transport, and their use today is largely limited to postal delivery services.


A boda-boda (or bodaboda) is a two-wheeled bicycle or motorcycle taxi, originally in East Africa. Boda Boda[8] is also the name of Yuba Bicycles compact cargo bike introduced in 2012.

Long John bicycle

Danish Long John freight bicycle

The Long John Bicycle is a freight bicycle with the cargo area in front of the rider and some linkage connecting the steering to the front wheel. Capacity is usually about 220 pounds (100 kg). A traditional Long John will have a smaller front wheel and a 23 or 26 in (58 or 66 cm) rear wheel and a 30–40 in (76–102 cm) long platform or basket located low in front of the handlebars. Vintage Long Johns are becoming collectible. Recently the term "Bakfiets" (which means "box bike" in Dutch) has sometimes been used to describe Long Johns and for cargo bikes in general.[9] Slightly shorter versions of Long Johns are also sometimes referred to as "Cycletrucks". The last known manufacturer to still produce the original Long Johns is Monark. The history of Long John Bicycles is traced to Denmark c. 1923.[10] The Smith & Co. Company (SCO - founded by Ivar Smith and Robert Jacobsen in Odense, Denmark 17 October 1894) was the inventor and the first to build this type of cargo bicycle. The first Long-John was presented to the public at the Wembley World Fair & Exhibition in 1924.

Longtail bicycle

A Surly Big Dummy with handlebars and foot rests for a second rider

Longtails have a longer than usual frame wheelbase at the rear compared to a standard bicycle.[11][12][13] The extended rear better facilitates use as a freight bicycle or carrying multiple or adult passengers compared with shorter bicycles. They tend to handle more like regular bikes than cargo bikes with linkage steering.

Xtracycle Free Radical as fitted to a Trek 820 MTB donor bike.

Xtracycle developed the first longtail product, their Free Radical,[14] which attaches to an existing 'donor' bicycle to make it a longtail bike in 1998. The growing popularity of Xtracycle inspired the Kona Ute,[15] launched for the 2008 season. Surly were asked by Xtracycle to build a complete Xtracycle-compatible frameset; the result was the 'Big Dummy', first released for the 2008 season. The chromoly frameset is designed for 26" wheels.[16] Buyers have the choice of frameset alone or complete bicycle. In 2008 Xtracycle documented the LongTail as an open-source standard.[17] This has helped individuals to build longtail bikes themselves such as the Xtravois.[18]

Xtracycle now offers a complete bike, the Xtracycle EdgeRunner, which allows for safer loading and unloading of children and is easier to handle and accelerate than other longtails because of its small 20" rear wheel.[19]

Since then LongTails have become a bike of choice to be outfitted with Electric-Power Assist systems.

Yuba Bicycles launched the first complete longtail cargo bike with the Mundo.[20] Other complete longtail cargo bikes include the Surly Big Dummy.

Wooden freight bicyle

Chukudu transporting bananas to market in the North Kivu province of DR Congo.

The chukudu (or chikudu, cbokoudou) is a two-wheeled vehicle used in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is made of wood, and used for transporting freight.

Porteur bicycle

A modern bicycle styled off the classic French Porteur bicycle.

A Porteur bicycle has the rack on the front, and can carry as much as 50 kilograms (7.9 st) that way.


Cycle rickshaw in Dhaka

Cycle rickshaws are used for the short range transport of both people and goods.

Cargo capability

Bicycle Made in Platform Lx W in cm max. weight in kg
Maderna MSRC XXL Truck ? 80x60 120 cargo only
Riese & Müller Load light D 60x39-45 200 total weight
Larry vs Harry Bullit DK 70x46 180 total weight
Cargo Bike: Wagon Bike ? 80x54 100
Douze Cycles: Messenger V2 F 40-80x? 200 total weight
Radkutsche: Rapid D 82x50-70 200
Pedalpower Berlin: Long Harry ? 80x60 200 total weight
Omnium Cargo DK 83x50 175 total weight
Clevercycles Urban Arrow XXL NL 121x61 ?
8Freight ? ?x60 50-100


Designers and manufacturers

See also


  1. ^ Sherwood Stranieri (17 July 2008). "IKEA Bikes (no, they're not made of plywood)". Using Bicycles. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Sherwood Stranieri (17 July 2008). "Video: Coffee Cargo Bikes in Rwanda". Using Bicycles. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  3. ^ AP (6 December 2013). "Cargo Bikes The New Minivan For Cycling Families". Segment. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Promoting Cargo Cycling in the European Union". Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "EU Parliament Listens to Cargo Bike Experts". European Cyclists’ Federation. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Dr. Morgan Giddings (10 August 2009). "A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles: Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers". Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Walker, Amy, ed. (2011). On Bicycles: 50 Ways The New Bicycle Culture Can Change Your Life. Novato/California: New World Library. pp. 127, 128.  
  10. ^ Dickson, Thomas (2006). Dansk Design.  
  11. ^ "Blog Archive » Longtail Vanilla #1". Clever Cycles. 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  12. ^ Dave R. (January 10, 2008). "Kona Ute—Rock solid cargo bike". Bike Hugger. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ Justin Thomas. "The Best Cargo Carrying Bikes Of 2009: A Review >> MetaEfficient Review". Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  14. ^ "Xtracycle". Xtracycle. Retrieved 2014-12-30. 
  15. ^ "konaworld". konaworld. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  16. ^ "Spew | Removing and applying decals on our frames". Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  17. ^ "Main Page - Open Source LongTail Technology". 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  18. ^ "xtravois". Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  19. ^ "We Tried It: Xtracycle EdgeRunner Assisted and Unassisted". Hum of the City. 2014-06-23. Retrieved 2015-01-25. 
  20. ^
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.