This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 145.
Cambridge is globally renowned as a centre for high-tech innovations, but on its streets a much simpler lowtech change has been taking place. An increasing number of parents are abandoning their cars and choosing to do the school run, shopping and deliveries on two- and three-wheeled cargo bikes.
There are no exact numbers, but we estimate from our sales figures that there are now in excess of 400 and probably at least 600 parents and carers in and around Cambridge who have embraced the advantages of doing the daily commute by pedal power. At most schools and nurseries you can see a line of them every day ready to drop off or pick up their precious cargo. You will also see the cycles parked outside local shops or cafés while families do their shopping or catch up with friends over a cup of coffee. I hear of people who are new to the area and have made new friends through owning a cargo bike.
The implications of this change are manifold and motivated by much more than just the way you can glide past the traffic jams, cut through green spaces and alleyways, and often choose off-road and more pleasant routes.
One of the prime benefits mentioned by most parents is time efficiency; in their busy mornings and afternoons, they know exactly how long their journey will take – a big advantage when some parents have children at nurseries and schools at different locations and with different pick up times.
We estimate that there are at least 600 parents and carers embracing the advantages of a commute by pedal power
Children love their cargo bikes and are often quite alarmed at the thought of leaving them with us while we do repairs or routine service work. Fortunately, due to the high quality of the brands we stock, time off road is very low, one revelation being the high-puncture-resistant tyres which really do work and are fitted to all our range of bikes and trikes.
Cargo bikes are low carbon footprint products in use, and we further prioritise sustainability by the quality and durability of the brands of cycle we choose to sell, some of which have been through several families, done countless miles and will conceivably be around for many years yet.
In 2008 a community group in Richmond called ‘Parents for Pedal Power’ won a prestigious Transport for London (TfL) Cycling Legacy award for operating a share scheme using four of our Bakfiets cargo bikes. TfL has continued to work to encourage more people to switch to cleaner, greener and more efficient forms of travel and this year launched the Best Cargo Bike awards in which the Bakfiets Long won the category ‘best family cargo bike’. This was particularly creditable as all of the other entries were electric-assist models. The Bakfiets Short came second in the same category and was rated as highly commended.
In 2008 the School Run Centre took on new premises in Hope Street Yard, a haven of peace in busy Romsey Town, at a great central location next to the vibrant Mill Road. It had space for our bikes to be test-ridden in a traffic-free area and a good-sized showroom to display our collection. In recent years the threat of redevelopment with housing has been looming, but if current plans go through a prospective new owner will retain the character of the yard and keep it as a space for small independent business and artisan-based trades. They also plan to expand the yard into a local social hub with the addition of food and drink facilities. The yard will become traffic-free so we anticipate that our business will play a major role in transporting goods and doing deliveries for some of the other traders located there.
With the School Run Centre remaining in the yard to become part of this thriving community, it will continue to offer the same service and sales. However, my retirement date is well passed so I am looking for either a partner to step in to share the load or a buyer for the whole company.
It has been immensely rewarding building up this business and seeing the effect cargo bikes have on people. I often hear the expressions ‘liberating’ and ‘lifechanging’ and have found the smiling children a reward above all else.
Hugh Salt, schoolruncentre.co.uk