Cargo Bike Roundup

With May official bike month in the U.S., we’ll begin the festivities with a roundup of cargo bikes and trikes courtesy of Berlin corespondent Steve Rowell. These puppies answer the common objection to biking, “but I’ve got shit to carry!”

We imagine this sturdy old model, pictured above, delivering barrels of sauerkraut, blood sausage and hefeweisen to the local Bier Garten. The bike equivalent of the sturdy old Frau behind the bar at our local German watering hole, the Red Lion. This is Utility with a capital U.

Sadly, Mr. Homegrown Evolution has forgotten every word of his college German, so all we can make out is that this bike represents the Grüne Liga, some sort of environmental organization. Don’t know if this trike is an ad, or if the Grüne Liga uses it to distribute literature or environmentally correct currywurst.

We imagine this bike belongs to some way eurotrashy DJ dude who uses it to shuttle his 100 kilo collection of Eurodisco hits to all the hot Berlin nightclubs. Gotta say that while we dig the European commitment to biking, health care and the environment, it’s their terrible music that keeps us firmly planted in America. If you don’t believe me, spend some time watching this Eurovision song contest clip by way of an example.
Via Facebook, Russell Bell wrote us to ask about the trike pictured above manufactured by a British outfit called Cycles Maximus which Russell wants to use to deliver produce to a local farmer’s market. Go Russell! We had to plead ignorance never having used one of these things, but as long as you don’t have any big hills or angry motorists it should work just fine.

Sadly in our corner of Los Angeles we have both big hills and angry motorists, which is why Homegrown Evolution uses the amazing Xtracycle for our cargo trips since I can’t imagine riding a wide cargo trike in L.A. With the Xtracycle, cargo cinches up tight in the back making for a narrow profile. This allows passage through tight spaces, such as our substandard bike lanes and busy traffic. You pretty much ride it like you would any other regular bike. Surly has recently come out with a sturdy frame/Xtracycle combination.

Local biking comrade Josef Bray-Ali just picked up a Dutch cargo bike called a bakfiet similar to the one pictured above. You can read his review here. A local Los Angeles dealer, bucketbike.com has started importing bakfiets and other European style bikes to America.

We’ve found hauling cargo on a bike to be tremendously enjoyable. It’s an entertaining challenge to see how many ridiculously heavy things you can carry. Sixty pounds of dog food, bags of concrete, soil and many loads of groceries have all traveled on our Xtracyle. It’s allowed us to get rid of one of our cars and save thousands of dollars. While many of the bikes above are on the expensive side, if you replace a car with them you’ll come out way ahead. And again, it’s just plain fun, which is all that really matters.

California Dreaming

Mr. Homegrown Evolution had a dream earlier this week in which we sold our crumbling Silver Lake bungalow (to an entertainment industry schmuck? see ad above) and moved into an apartment. The owners of the apartment building had torn up the parking lot and had converted every spare bit of space into a mini-farm. There were impressive rows of cabbage and other greens all planted in plowed rows. The crops took up so much room that there was, in fact, very little space left to even walk. It seemed, at first, a pleasant dream of a utopian future of efficient urban land use with an emphasis on growing tasty and healthy food. But when I awoke I realized that this idyllic vision was actually a nightmare. Those rows of crops were there because they had to be there. The proverbial shit had come down and desperation had set in.

The dream capped a week of gloomy news both personal and national. My 83 year old mom broke her sternum in an automobile accident, making her yet another victim of a city designed for cars that forces everyone to drive, even for distances of less than a mile. After the accident, many hours were spent dealing with doctors, auto body shops, insurance companies and the vile Automobile Club whose lobbyists, by the way, are busy in the state capital pushing for the auto-centric planning that ruins our cities and victimizes our children and parents.

While I dealt with the phone calls and paperwork, record breaking hot temperatures challenged our vegetables and chickens. A symptom of global warming perhaps? Yet another reason to suggest that the car-centric planning might not be a good idea?

To continue ranting, this played out against the background of rice rationing at Costco and Wal-Mart stores due to poor harvests and food price inflation in Asia. How about the continuing unraveling of Wall Street’s depraved casino, not to mention food riots and energy shortages?

Solutions? I’ve got some ideas, but after seeing this reprehensible ad from Farmer’s Insurance it’s obvious that there’s a hell of a lot of work to do. It will be hard to counter the status quo without, as James Howard Kunstler puts it, “appearing ridiculous, like an old granny telling you to fetch your raincoat and rubbers because a force five hurricane is organizing itself offshore, beyond the horizon.”

And yet I don’t want to fall into the gloomy, apocalyptic trap of some of the other folks in the urban homesteading movement. After a enjoyable evening last night at a fundraiser for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, my dark mood lifted as I was reminded that good things are happening out there. Change comes slowly, one step at a time, requiring great patience. Like gardening, bread baking and home brewing there will be mistakes and setbacks. But there will also be a slow accumulation of knowledge, a gradual revolution. Someday, perhaps, that apartment mini-farm seen in my dream will become reality for all the right reasons.

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