One look at our roads on any day shows that the demand for cargo bikes has increased immensely in recent years. According to the industry association Zweirad Industrieverband e.V. (ZIV), the number of cargo bikes on German roads rose from approx. 60,000 in 2018 (of which 39,200 were electrified and 20,900 were not) by 72 percent to 103,200 in 2020 (78,000 electrified, 25,200 not), and by another 62 % to 167,000 in the last year (120,000 electrified, 47,000 not).
All the while the segment is becoming more diversified. The traditional models with two wheels and one cargo area in front of the rider are increasingly getting competition from new and interesting variations. Two wheels at the front and one at the rear, or the other way around, tilting technology or not, four-wheeled designs with cargo area or cargo box systems – the possibilities seem limitless.
The term ‘cargo bike’ has actually lost some of its pertinence by now, since we see these bikes used more and more to transport children. When transporting kids, widely accepted as one of the groups most in need of protection, all parties involved – designers, sales teams and customers – have a special duty of care. With that in mind, it seems positively reckless that most models sold come with underpowered (drum) brakes and wooden boxes to seat the children. Manufacturers even deck out their ad copy with images of several youngsters sitting in one box, not belted in, arms hanging out so that hands can easily reach into the spokes.
It is these models that provoke the ire of many players from the automotive industry, who waste no time in taking up arms against this up-and-coming bike segment. As they see it, they have been making strenuous efforts to protect children in the event of an accident while the bike industry is jeopardising the youngsters’ health in the most negligent ways. Something the car lobbyists conveniently ignore in all this is that the actual hazard for children in the road does not come from bikes but motorists.
Statistically, the number of accidents involving these bikes is still close to negligible. And yet, every accident with severe consequences is one too many, and the sensationalist crash tests performed by the likes of DEKRA and ADAC are causing immense damage to the image of transportation bikes. We as bike manufacturers, but also as advisers to our customers, should use our insights by recommending and advocating for more active features like bright daytime running lights and strong (disc) brakes, as well as passive safety devices, such as solid seats with three-point or (better yet) five-point belts and headrests. If we’re being honest with ourselves as an industry, the safety of child seats and cycle trailers for children has overtaken that of transportation bikes in recent years.
Transportation bike standard DIN 79010
From an international point of view, there is currently no EN or ISO standard regulating the safety of a transportation bike. The only existing standard is DIN 79010:2020-02, developed in Germany. This standard sets out requirements for the fatigue strength and, as far as the transportation of passengers is concerned, makes reference to DIN 15918 for cycle trailers for children. One can be assured that reading and, better yet, implementing these requirements will be worthwhile.
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