London’s Cavalcade of Cargo Cycles, How the Post Office Delivered, and Ikea makes a Start.


What is in a name – or would a bike by any other name still smell as sweet

My last blog was about cargo cycles, focusing particularly on cargo tricycles. This is something of an update on that; before my next bike related blog which will be on cargo bicycles, trailers, multi-axle vehicles, and the next generation of power assistance beyond batteries.

I gave a guide to a couple of terms that I had used.  Between them, the illustrations below cover most types of cargo cycles available.  Clicking on them will provide a link to the original sources.

Common Cargo Bike Types

Common Cargo Bike Types 2

I guess that on the basis of the above, this picture shows a quad caddy trailer train. Actually, it dates from the early 1990’s and shows the legendary cycling advocate Kieran Byrne of Square Wheel Cycleworks in Dublin.

Irish Bicycle Trailers

Square Wheel closed a couple of years ago, but had started life as part of the ‘Dublin Resource Centre’ – a worker owned co-operative. This was how Kieran would arrive with his stock at a cycle jumble, exhibition or whatever.  Yes, this is an excuse to include a picture that appeals to me.

Never too young to travel by bike

I referred to a cargo trike that had a range of detachable front ends, including one that could have a pram fitted.  Coincidently, on Twitter, @Hackneycyclist posted these pictures taken in London in the 1920s.

Tricycle with Pram

Cargo Tricycle 1920s

A more dubious arrangement is the pram that converts to a sidecar.  In this advertisement, the picture of it as a side car doesn’t actually show it in the one-wheel configuration.

Pramcar Advert

Cyclist, organ grinder and monkey

These images brought to mind a couple of pictures I came across in Prague way back in the last century. They were in a frame that was covered in tar deposits from the cigarette smoke of generations of late-night music lovers.  In the snap I took of it, the original images are so dark as to be barely decipherable.

The beer and music were both great, although my companion couldn’t quite understand why my interest in the pictures should make a trip to the bar such a prolonged affair. Old, black and white or sepia, they were of many an ancient machine. Some were of youthful riders with their racing steeds but who were, by this time, probably mostly pounding the celestial highways.

The pictures that drew my attention, showed a barrel organ similar to the one below, but mounted on a cargo bike.  The main difference was that the top section was lower and showed the organ pipes.

Barrel Organ on Handcart

In one of the pictures the organ grinder was cranking the organ with a handle. In the other the handle had been replaced by a sprocket connected by chain to another mounted on one of the front wheels. This clearly allowed the ‘organist’ to play by pedalling about.   I’ve made a drawing of it but sadly my skills do not extend to including either an organ grinder or the monkey which, in my imagination, would be riding pillion on the rear rack.

Bicycle Barrel Organ

The tempo of the music would have been somewhat dependent on the verve of the rider – perhaps best illustrated by this video.

Bicycle Organ Video

An internet search threw up this picture of a cargo trike being used to carry and display an organ in Amsterdam. There is no suggestion that it was powered by the bike though.

Barrel Organ on Cargo Bike

135 years of Royal Mail red delivery tricycles

The Royal Mail featured in my last blog as an early adopter of the use of cargo tricycles in the UK.  135 years later they have revealed the latest iteration; a trike which they are trialling in three locations. Delightfully, after all those years, they still carry the red livery.

Royal Mail Delivery Tricycle

Parcels Post

Comparing this picture with the tweeted video below will reveal some of the progress made in that 135 years.  These look suspiciously like they from the stable of Cycles Maximus of Bath. Two of their vehicles can be seen in the picture at the start of this blog.

Royal Mail Cargo Tricycle

Obvious differences from its predecessors include a change from tadpole to delta trike, increased capacity, and a degree of weather protection for the rider.

The technology though, emphasises the jump from the 19th to 21st Centuries.  Bikes with electric assist are not necessarily that innovative anymore.  These trikes however, do not rely on charging from mains power alone. Battery life is extended by trickle charging from photo voltaic cells mounted on the roof and, like Formula 1 cars, from regenerative breaking.Royal Mail e-bike video

The e-trikes  in this video are being trialled in Stratford (East London), Cambridge and Sutton Coldfield at the moment.

I personally think the trikes look better than the new electric van which Royal Mail are about to trial.

Royal Mail electric van

London Bridge Cargo Cycle Expo and Cavalcade

To coincide with the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in the centre of London, Team London Bridge held a Cargo Bike Expo Event.

Cargo Bike Expo London

The following is taken from their press releases.

As part of the London Bridge Cycle Strategy, and in anticipation ULEZ, Team London Bridge is launching a Bikes for Business initiative to encourage the use of Cargo Bikes for deliveries in the London Bridge area, replacing motor vehicles on our streets. As Cargo Bikes are exempt from ULEZ and Congestion Charges and are proven to be as quick or quicker than a light goods vehicle in many circumstances, it makes good business sense to switch.

Subsidies of up to £600 are being offered to businesses to trial cargo bike services.

The scheme should prove popular with businesses as switching to cargo bikes reduces costs, journey times, and congestion– completing journeys 50% faster than vans in peak traffic. And switching to cargo bike deliveries now will future proof business freight services, aligning with the Mayor’s aims to deliver zero emission zones in Town Centres from 2020 and in Central London by 2025, ensuring the business is prepared, able to test suppliers and avoid any disruption come 2025.

Cargo Bike Expo London 2

When I spoke to one of the organizing team, he claimed that it was going to be the biggest collection ever of cargo bikes (types?) in one place in the UK. Wandering around, it was clear that these were everyday working vehicles; not the especially prepared for exhibition examples that might be seen elsewhere. The Christiania below, belonging to Ride Clean, was typical of many in that it was there between commercial jobs.

Cargo Bike Expo London 3

The vast majority of the cargo bikes had electric assist.  The degree to which this has allowed cargo bikes to develop, was well reflected in this articulated cargo bike produced by Cycles Maximus. This will feature in more detail in a future blog.

Cargo Bike Expo London 4

As part of the event there was a cavalcade of cargo bikes around the London Bridge area. I was able to capture part of it in the video below as it set off.

Cavalcade Video

The event was held in Guy’s Courtyard and, to coincide with the event, Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals announced they are to trial cycle deliveries of medical supplies as part of a wider “green” initiative and in response to the launch of the ULEZ.

Cargo Bike Expo London 5

Baby steps Ikea, baby steps

In the last blog I commented that Ikea do not have any cargo cycles for hire at any of its UK stores.  A few evenings later I was riding through Deptford when I came across this Zedify trike being used to make a delivery from Ikea’s Greenwich store.

Zedify Cargo Trike

A bike fit for a Crown Princess (and her old man who uses it too)

Earlier in the day I had passed this nihola Family trike outside the local pharmacist. It can sometimes be seen at London Recumbents so may be one of theirs.

Nihola Family Trike

The nihola has the less common Ackermann type steering.  This does, to some extent, compromise both what can be fitted between the front wheels, and how tight a turning circle can be achieved.

It can’t be bad though as there are more than 10,000 niholas just in Copenhagen. The Dutch Association of Cyclists claim that: ”the “nihola was the fastest and easiest to steer cargo bike of all (in its comparison tests) and provided the most pleasant ride…”.

One enthusiastic nihola owner is Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, who uses hers for the school run – even when its snowing.  I can’t afford to include the pictures here, but they can be seen by following this link .  Australians and bikes – not always the best subject to contemplate a year out from the next Olympics!  The Crown Princess is not only a regular pedaller but is promoting an anti-obesity scheme. Sadly, from an environmental perspective, she is normally followed around by a minibus carrying her security guards.

Nihola 4point0

I took the pictures above and below to show the steering arrangement; this time on a nihola 4.0 of

Nihola Steering Gear

Tucked away in a corner of Borough Market is ‘On Your Bike’. Rather than the traditional adverting A frame signs, they have a couple of nihola Posterbikes. The drums on the front are designed to carry adverting posters, and hinge open to allow leaflets or stock to be carried.  I guess that the missing seat makes it less likely that someone will just jump on and ride it away.

Nihola Advertising Trike

Also from nihola is the Flex, which can be used to carry wheelchairs as described last time.

Nihola Flex

Pleasant surprises

One of the pleasures I find in riding cycle routes and quietways, is discovering makes or models of cycle I haven’t seen before.  Unlike on a busy road, there is usually space to stop and find out a little more about it. A few days ago, I came across this Kangaroo Luxe just a quarter of a mile from home.

Winther Kangaroo Luxe

Riding alongside for a short chat, I discovered that it is produced by Winther, yet another Danish manufacturer. The rider told me that he had chosen this model, based on its light weight, whilst working in Holland. Non-the-less, he seemed to appreciates the electric assist on our local hills.

When not using a cargo, bike it has to be parked and secured.  Recently, having just ridden the poorly maintained pavé through Limehouse, I was glad of the excuse of photographing this Christiania as reason to dismount for a moment or two. At least it set the mood for viewing Paris Roubaix.

Christiania Cargo trike

The Italian Job – a Milanese confederacy adds chic to a french classic

Lastly, the Agnelli Milano 2CV Paris.  I think it is a thing of beauty and fun as well. Too much excess weight though for an everyday working cargo bike; even with electric assist.


Agnelli Citroën 2CV Trike 2

It was built by bike builder Luca Agnelli for the 2016 Autonomy Urban Mobility Show. It combines a classic 1920s Doniselli Duomo cargo trike with the front end of a Citroën 2CV.

Agnelli Citroën 2CV Trike 3

Within the inner wings of the 2CV front half is a cargo box for carrying goods

Doniselli Milano

Doniselli were founded more than a century ago and are still manufacturing bikes today. This is one of their current range of cargo bikes.

Doniselli Cargo Tricycle

Besides restoring antique furniture, Agnelli is known for building unique e-bikes. Many of these incorporate parts scavenged from motorcycles manufactured between the wars. His use the fuel tanks to hold the batteries have become an iconic statement piece on these bikes.  If you wish to see a gallery of his work, follow this link. A kayak as a sidecar to fit a bicycle – really?  The bikes are fantastic though.

And finally

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Agnelli Citroën 2CV Trike

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