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CARTS for EVERYDAY BICYCLE USE

For most of my adult life, my primary mode of transportation has been a bicycle + detachable cart. If we count Earth Day 1970 as the official start of climate concern, then all 35 years of my life with a bike + cart took place amidst growing consciousness and support for that kind of transportation.  And yet all-purpose carts for everyday use didn’t really take off until about 2000.  Even now, in 2020, there’s a very limited range of consumer choice.  I’d like to change that.

This blog was originally an email to my neighborhood listserv in the city of Evanston, IL, a very urban suburb just outside the city of Chicago (we share a border). Both Evanston and Chicago have active bicycling communities and lots of good bike shops.  

To:
–My neighborhood listserv
–Go Evanston
–Citizens Greener Evanston (CGE) Transportation Task Force
–Evanston Transit Alliance
–Jessica Hyink, Transp. & Mobiliby Coordinator (City of Evanston)(staffperson for Transportation/Parking Committee)
–Kumar Jensen, Sustainabiality Coordinator for City of Evanston

Hi, all —
This email is about me giving encouragement and information about using a cart with your bicycle. I’m highlighting a fairly new model of cart—the Burley Travoy—which looks and works just like a dolly (a handcart). 

But I’m really just trying to expand our general interest and use of carts—any model–which I think will go a long way in promoting more bicycling for daily life, not just fun and recreation. In turn, if more people are using bicycles and carts in Evanston, in Chicago, etc., our transportation infrastructure will adapt to support us.

Still trying to figure out how to get my bike + cart on the bus rack. (Just kidding.)

DISCLAIMER
For the record, I am not an agent of Burley or any bike store or any other company. Much of my biking information comes from my neighbors, Alex Anon and Cecelia Wallin, who own Bucephalus Bikes. I also support Evanston’s other bike stores in my neighborhood, Pony Shop and Wheel & Sprocket. 

BIKE INDUSTRY: A little history + current status

It’s important to note, however, that not all bike stores cater equally to everyday use.  Like the airline industry—which began as a luxury consumer good—the high-end bicycle racing industry dominated bike messaging for many years. Many bike stores are still slanted that way. This is why the whole “just in time” bicycle supply chain got blindsided by the pandemic. People didn’t anticipate that regular folks might be wanting and needing more everyday bicycles or parts, and that having some inventory on hand might be a good idea. This of course has been compounded by the U.S. getting out of the manufacturing sector and stupid trade deals that emphasized one “global” economy rather than thousands of thriving local economies all over the world.

If you’re interested in carts for bicycles for everyday, multiple uses, read on.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND re Bicycles + Carts

Many of you know that I have never owned (or rented) a car. This is true for my 43 years in Evanston, as well as in my entire life (69 years).  

Many of you also know that I was able to avoid owning a car because:
—Evanston and Chicago have a good public transportation system
—friends, family and neighbors would sometimes offer me rides (which I gratefully accepted)
—my main transportation source was (and is) a bicycle

Finally, many of you know that my bicycle really worked for me because, since about 1980, I have had a cart (the Cannondale ‘Bugger’) which allowed me to carry my young daughter (until she was 7 or so) and then use it for my gardening business (until I retired in 2007).

In 2020, I still don’t know what I would do without my cart. Occasionally dogs bark at me as I ride by. I think this is because they think I’m a horse or a centaur. With four wheels and my sense of comfort riding that way, I definitely feel like a centaur.

BICYCLE CARTS in 2020

Which is all to say that I am a big advocate for bicycle carts of all kinds. I still think there’s room for design improvements. 

Since the pandemic started, I have seen a lot more carts on Evanston roads.  I don’t know if people are buying new ones or just using the ones they have more frequently. People are certainly biking more. Whatever the reasons, I’m in favor.

In the interests of promoting bicycle carts in general, I have been keeping an eye on the new Burley Travoy ever since I saw my neighbor, Alex, using one. The other day I got caught up to date on Alex’s opinion of the Travoy.  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he still really likes it. 

Although I have not tried it out myself, here’s some information that might encourage folks to try one out or even consider another cart (if you’ve never tried one before).   

THE TRAVOY

For some pictures of the Travoy and other carts, this review might be useful.Note that the review is of an earlier model of the Travoy than currently manufactured.
Burley Travoy Review May 2018
by Brian Martin

Travoy specifications & features
—very quick to attach and detach from seat post
—can be used independent of the bike — e.g., as a shopping cart—collapsible (folding)
—carries up to 60 pounds (my Cannondale limit is 80 pounds)
—cost: $250-300 (that’s about the price of my Cannondale 30 years ago!)
—not made for carrying children or animals—only inanimate cargo
—has some accessories to expand its carrying uses

For the record, I have yet to see a bike cart that I like better than my Cannondale. Unfortunately, Cannondale doesn’t make this model any more (not sure if they make any carts). Plus there were 2 definite design flaws in the hitch (I currently use a bungee cord and would never carry children with it now).  

If I ever have to buy a new cart, I’ll probably check out the Travoy first. Questions I would ask before I buy:
a.  How does it ride in winter?  icy patches, slushy streets, rutted streets, etc.?
b.  Can I widen its profile so that it takes up more space on the street and so that I’m not tempted to ride between vehicles.  (That’s what I like about my Cannondale, which is 30” wide. The Travoy is about 20” wide.)
c.  Can I add some brighter color (yellow?) so that it’s more visible during the day and night? The dark color and narrow profile work against visibility, even during the day.  The fact that the Travoy is still new means that drivers might not register it correctly or quickly enough under given traffic conditions if they don’t see it clearly.

CITY SUPPORT for Bicycles + Carts?

I know many of you have been long-time activists on bicycle infrastructure in Evanston. I try to follow your respective activities, but I never see anything about carts.

Since the pandemic is clearly the entryway to a slower, less destructive way of life, maybe now is the time to think about the policy aspects of advocating for more carts on Evanston bicycles.

Briefly, off the top of my head, can the City of Evanston:
—Get a discount on a quantity of carts (e.g., the Travoy), to be sold through the local bike shops?
—Could the City get a grant to offset the consumer cost?
—Given the design expertise in Evanston and Chicago area (Northwestern, Design Evanston, the bike shops, Recyclery, ATA, others ??), would a design competition or workshop be of interest?
— Could a bicycle cart design class be incorporated into school learning this year, as a way to get the community involved in shouldering some of the extra load of being a parent, teacher, or school administrator during the pandemic?  Such a “hands-on” class would also be a change from book + computer learning for the students — junior high, high school?

I’m happy to brainstorm variations of these ideas and other ideas. 
I’m happy to share details of my 35+ years of experience of a bicycle + cart.