Bethany-Martin Metrofiets Cargo Bike

Less Car, More Go: Why We Love the Cargo Bike

At surface level, livingVANdal is about VANdal, our sprinter conversion which we believe to be one of the greatest life-enhancement purchases one can make. As a self-contained portable base camp for all of our activities (while still managing to get decent gas mileage), it’s pretty safe to say that, for us, VANdal stands for the things that define our personal ethos. But since we are in the business of sharing all the possibilities for customizing your life to suit what you value most, we call your attention now to our new favorite non-VAN mode of transportation:
The cargo bike.

As we shared in our earlier post, we came to select the Metrofiets cargo bike, custom-built for us in Portland, Oregon, for a variety of its both form and functional characteristics. Today, we’d like to follow up that post with the reactions and vibes we’ve experienced from owning our area’s first cargo bike.

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Can a bike really change your life? We’d like to think so. Here’s how our Metrofiets cargo bike has cranked up our little world:
  1. Regular errands become an adventure, a mission. How much can we carry? Where will our route take us? How much gas can we save by not using the car? Every trip is a challenge to outperform and one-up the utility of the cargo bike.

    On days we aren’t hauling a Christmas tree, groceries, or wood for an outdoor fire, we take it to work, bringing Katie Lou along for the ride. (Though, admittedly, Katie Lou is still not 100% convinced that this is her favorite ride).

    With the cargo bike, we have been able to virtually eliminate all weekday vehicular travel, with the exception of our paddle training, which (until we figure out another option…any ideas?) still requires use of the car to get to the water.

  2. Even on days “off” from training, regular outdoor exercise is the norm, not the exception. Every trip is an excuse to get outside and move. While so many people are stuck inside their cubicles, breathing toxic, recycled air and not getting the outdoor therapy we are convinced is imperative for good health, we feel most fortunate that our lives are built-around getting-around using our own two legs.


  3. It’s all about the connections. Via cargo bike, we are in a good position to experience more positive interactions with others — Including spontaneous and serendipitous rendez vous with friends we see downtown. When we see someone we know or some place we want to stop, we. just. stop. No parking drama, no circling the block, no honking horns.
    Serendipity by Bike
    A chance meeting with friends downtown leads them on a quest to test out the carrying capacity of the cargo bike.

    It’s a bifurcated benefit, with serendipity linking us not only to who we run into, but how spontaneous our own choice of excursions becomes. For instance, after a grocery run we might hit up a stationary store or small boutique on Main Street we’ve never been to. In a car, we would never have bothered with the hassle. The stores, cafes, and other local businesses — seemingly invisible when you’re in a car — somehow come to life as soon as you are a pedestrian and can see your landscape at a different speed and focal depth.

  4. “Shop Local.”
    The research on cyclists and pedestrians in shopping environments downtown is clear: When you’re not bound by a car, you stay a while. You spend money. You drive business. We can only hope that as our downtown landscape evolves in Sarasota, city planners take these statistics into account by encouraging more pedestrian traffic and enhancing the city’s currently frightening bikeability.

    Be on your guard pedaling on Main Street Sarasota. High pedestrian and vehicular traffic, coupled with no bike lanes make it a gauntlet for a cyclist.

    Typically, when we ride in these urban settings, we see smiling faces, looks of shock & awe, and we manage to spark conversation because commuting by means of a cargo bike is an expression of both art and utility, a phenomenon unlike most people we cross paths with have ever seen.
    (Though, also because of its novelty and the fact that we are riding in one of the most elderly-dominant parts of the country, we do come across some people who just look confused and, at times, angry at the sight of us riding down the street in our cargo bike. We figure they’ll get over it! It’s important that we are a polite, law-abiding presence on the streets so that we can affect positive change in a city that otherwise does not cater well to unmotorized forms of transportation).


  5. Happy hour is safer for everyone. Visits to the local brewery and downtown for a pint by cargo bike mean we can leave the keys at home and keep the roads safer for all. Skoal!
    livingVANdal JDubs Brewery Sarasota
    Out for a pint by bike at JDubs Brewery near downtown Sarasota
  6. Date night? Your chariot awaits, m’lady. Bethany is always eager to jump in for a ride in the cargo box. Over the holidays, we even rode in formal attire to a Christmas party by cargo bike. On weeknights, sunset bike rides at the bayfront in Sarasota end in trips to Matto Matto for world-class tiramisu….Note: Date nights like these were few and far between “pre-cargo-bike” (PCB). 😀
    Enjoying some world-class tiramisu at Matto Matto in December, 2014 after a bay front cargo-bike ride and trip for groceries.
Maybe it sounds a little hokey to suggest that a bike can change your life, but think about the quality-of life improvements we’re talking about! With the cargo bike, we’re creating memories and at the same time challenging people’s beliefs that a car is required just to get down the street. We’re saving precious fossil fuels, and in the process, dollars. We get pleasure out of the journey, not just the destination (namely, work)…How often can you say that about your commute by car?

In all seriousness, it’s been the perfect supplement and complement to our transportation plan. Yes, we’re fortunate we live in an urban environment and can get to everything we need within a few miles of home. But what if you live in suburbia? Well, most communities, at the very least, build a grocery store very nearby. In the US, a strip mall is rarely farther than a bike ride away, are we right?

Bike to the grocery!
A shopping plaza is never far from home. Why take a car when you can probably bike?

You could also work with your local agencies to advocate for safer transportation by bike in your city. Here’s a few good resources to start:

Thinking of how a pedaling around a cargo bike could be right for you and your family? Connect with us! We’d be happy to let you test drive our Metrofiets. (It’s way easier to ride than it looks, we promise!) Also, be sure to check out their recent blog by Portland’s own Ayleen Crotty about how our new Metrofiets is the first in our area (though we think this crazy cat on the streets of downtown Sarasota may have beat us to the punch with this homemade cargo-contraption…)

For further reading & knowledgeness about all things cargo bike-related:
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Happy pedaling!


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