Utility-Bike Euphoria… in Europe
They say the journey is the destination. After a family trip to central Europe, I can say with certainly they’re right.
When three generations of our family landed in Europe (can you believe they let us in?), my wife and I immediately fell in awe with the way bikes were being used. As bike shop owners, we knew that the bike culture in Europe was strong, and we knew we’d be seeing bikes used more predominantly as a traditional mode of transportation rather than just recreation, but we were still made giddy by the staggering amount of utility bikes being happily peddled through towns big and small. Whether it was moms and dads hauling their kids to school in Interlaken, urban commuting in Zurich, or picking up a few days worth of groceries in Bavaria, we saw bikes in Europe being used as tools for living – not just toys for playing. Best part? These tools for living are also life-sustaining, helping to eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels and pollutants that have caused a dangerous increase in glacial melting – an issue that’s impossible to ignore when you live at the base of the Alps.
When we chatted with a few of these utility riders, they shared how having the ability to accomplish all of their errands on bike had increased their quality of living. “It’s a mood-lifter,” one said. “The fresh air, the exercise, and the feeling that you’re part of a solution…it’s all good.”
There definitely seems to be Utility-Bike Euphoria in Europe right now, and were here for it. And hoping it makes its way across the Atlantic.
Here, many urban cities and small towns across America see bicycling as essential to economic vitality. Town planners and urban developers alike are designing ways to make it easier for people to move through town on two wheels (and on foot) versus car. Imagine if large parking garages could be converted into green space, dog parks, or community gardens? Why keep the parking garage if we are using cars less? How about if a main street is closed to vehicle traffic and visitors can sit and enjoy coffee or listen to live music outside – without the sound or stink of exhaust? After all, Main Streets make our communities thrive because of the businesses, restaurants, and people that live there, not the cars that drive through.
It’s the kind of world we want to live in – one designed for people, not cars.
So when we arrived home, I decided I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and wait for this movement to take shape in the states. I wanted to start now. I began by researching the very industry I’ve been so passionate about for most of my life, and I was pleased with what I found. Bike manufacturers are rushing to produce cost-effective utility bikes and accessories to meet your individual needs. Bike shops are investing in training for employees who work on electric assist cargo and family bikes, and the best shops are working within their community to raise awareness by giving demo events and sharing stories on social media. We’ve already done all the above and we have so much more planned, but I figured it was high time I set my road bike aside (but like, close by because I’ll never stop taking those mind-clearing long road rides) and tried life as a cargo commuter – not just pedaling to work but for my errands. This week, I took a cargo e-bike to the Lititz Farmers Market. I stocked up on homemade bread and local produce (did I mention it just so happens to be peach season?) and effortlessly hauled it home.
In the coming months Bikeworks will launch an awareness campaign focused solely on ways we can use our bikes as tools. Our “Globetrotters” Campaign will be a fun way for anyone to come and check out (think library book) a Specialized Globe Haul for up to one week, as long as they promise to use it instead of their car for certain errands or to take their kids to school and tell us the story of how it went (be ready to snap a few pics of your adventures!). Our social media will showcase employees and customers who are using their bikes uniquely to cut down on time behind the wheel. We will have demo events with industry brand leaders like Specialized and Electra. Rebecca will be commuting to her job as Main Street Manager and will be able to pull off events like Lititz Fire and Ice easier now that she can get around town without having to park her car.
We have never been this excited to be in the bike industry. Join us in discovering how trading time behind the wheel for time on two wheels might just be the breath of fresh air we all need.