Reader photos: Cargo bikes rule the streets of Beijing

In Beijing, cargo bikes flourish for several reasons, including a city policy that prohibits large trucks from entering the central city. See and read more about Beijing’s cargo bike scene from reader Collin Roughton, an urban studies student who just returned from the city after a summer internship.

Reader Collin Roughton (whom you might recall from the “Money for Miles” bike tour he did in 2009) is recently back from a study trip in Beijing, China where he spent a few days observing their cargo bike culture.

Many of you might think Portland has an amazing cargo bike scene. We do; but Beijing has us handily beat when it comes to using bikes as urban freight-hauling tools.

Roughton said the diversity of people and bikes he saw in Beijing was “awesome to see” and he shared some of his photos with BikePortland. I’ve published several of them below, along with thoughts from Collin (as posted here).

Check out the photos below and let your mind consider how we can continue to replace truck traffic with pedal-powered bikes and trikes in our central city…

“The vast majority are actually trikes with large rear beds, usually made of steel or bamboo. They haul a wide variety of cargo: watermelons, novels, Styrofoam, houseplants, beer, goldfish, copper pipes, bootleg DVD’s, mobile hot-pot kitchens, 2×4’s, drinking water, steamed buns in bamboo baskets, orders from, garbage, and passengers.”

“Part of the reason there are so many cargo trikes is simple economics – trucks are unaffordable to the vast majority of these small business people. Another reason is the typically smaller scale of retail stores, which often don’t require tractor-trailer-sized deliveries.”

“The biggest reason for the huge number of these small delivery vehicles, however, is government policy that prohibits large trucks from entering the city (within the 5th ring road) unless they are carrying food from the countryside and have a special permit to do so… The policy creates an incentive for goods to be shifted to smaller – and in many cases less polluting – vehicles before they enter the city. Most of the cargo tricycles, for example, are either human-powered or electric.”

“Chinese officials understand that freight is important to their economy, but they’re not limiting themselves to the standard freeway expansion solution. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to freight transportation?”

Well said — and photographed — Collin! Thanks for sharing and I hope to see a continued surge in these type of freight vehicles in Portland.

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