Cargo County: Out of the car and into the saddle

This article was published in 2022, in Magazine 155.

Nick's bike and loaded trailerI’ve never been fit enough or fast enough to be a sports cyclist and instead enjoy pootling around on my bike, stopping here for a coffee and there for a slice of cake. However, most of my journeys begin with a purpose – shopping, meeting friends or nipping into town for something.
Though I cycled to school in the 1970s it never crossed my mind to cycle to work, but when Royal Papworth Hospital (where I worked at the time) moved to its new home next door to Addenbrooke’s a growing desire to pedal more, as well as astronomical parking charges on the Biomedical Campus, gave me the nudge I needed.

I knew I didn’t ‘have the legs’ to make it all the way from Little Paxton so compromised by hoisting my bike onto the back of my car and driving to Madingley Road Park & Ride, before making the cross-Cambridge trip on two wheels through some lovely parts of the city.
My bicycle commute quickly became the highlight of my day, so when the opportunity came to work closer to home with an NHS community team in Huntingdon I had the opportunity to cycle ALL the way to work and have done so every day for nearly a year (c. 26km round trip each day) and saved £50 every week in petrol into the bargain.

In January, a breath drawn through the teeth of a local garage mechanic prompted the end of one of the family cars. I wondered if we could do without replacing it and I remembered from my rides around Cambridge that lots of people use cargo bikes for activities of daily living. Without wishing to reinforce a stereotype, I’m a (sometimes) mean Scot, and raised an eyebrow at the price of these fine machines. So I decided to give a trailer a go – particularly as I wasn’t sure how useful I’d find a load-lugging capacity.

Tesco Click and Collect with a trailerSo for a bit less than £100 I bought a bike trailer and it has definitely proved its worth. Among other things, I can collect the grocery shopping from Tesco at the other side of town (where I’m their only engineless customer) and take things to the recycling centre, but most importantly it gives me another opportunity to get out on my bicycle and to meet my Strava km target for the week!

I can see a bright future for cargo bicycles, especially in the final mile of the growing home delivery industry. Out here in the sticks we may well be ‘trailing’ behind our friends in the city when it comes to using bikes for travel and to transport things but judging by the number of people who want to talk about my little trailer, there’s clearly an opportunity to encourage more activities out of the car and into the saddle.

Nick Gellatly, Little Paxton