What is fast, economical, needs no parking space, can transport a few kids or bulky objects (e.g. a washer) through the city, even handle a move – and is not a car? Well, the cargo bike.
Cargo bikes have a long history that actually goes back to the origins of the bicycle itself. This (still) unusual means of locomotion was rediscovered in recent years. Independent of fuel and high running costs, the cargo bike offers a sustainable and efficient alternative to engine-driven vehicles, especially in urban areas, since it is operated under your own steam, running on muscle power alone. Cargo bikes have proven their worth as ideal vehicles for small and large transport, above all in city contexts, and can be used with ease by all cyclists.
On Vienna’s streets, too, the cargo bike is an increasingly frequent sight. Since they are extremely practical, cargo bikes should ideally be accessible to all potential users. Often, however, there is a lack of appropriate parking spots; the acquisition costs are high, and cargo bikes as a rule are not needed for all bicycle trips. Despite these challenges, nobody in Vienna need forgo the enjoyment and benefits offered by cargo bikes – this is where the Cargo Bike Collective (“Lastenradkollektiv”) comes into play.
In early 2010, the motto “Cargo Bike Collectivism Now!” motivated a group of bicycle enthusiasts in Vienna to found the Lastenradkollektiv (LRK) as a sort of “cargo bike share”.
The collective embraces the idea of a solidarity economy: cargo bike use should not aim for profit and commercial advantage but strive for solidarity and try to respond to actual needs. LRK is expressly opposed to private ownership; community benefits are at the foreground. Each member of this self-administered and self-organised collective takes part in handling the maintenance and rental of one cargo bike. There are no fixed rental fees; users donate an amount of their choice for cargo bike usage. These donations are relayed to a bike repair fund and serve to purchase new bikes and trailers.
Since 2010, LRK has been incorporated as an association under law; in its initial stages, it was supported by fundraisers, subsidies and Vienna’s bicycle community. In 2010, LRK was honoured with the KLIP 7 climate protection award organised by Vienna’s 7th municipal district Neubau.
In the beginning, the LRK bike pool was composed of just a few cargo bikes. After three years, it has grown to a total of 20 cargo bikes and trailers. Any kind of transport can be handled in a variety of ways. Two-wheeled and three-wheeled bikes as well as different types of trailers for all types of transport are available. The locations of the bikes and trailers are distributed as evenly as possible across the entire municipal territory. Some vehicles of the pool were built very creatively at the Vienna Bikekitchen and WUK by transforming old bicycles into new cargo bikes. In this way, the LRK vehicle pool also embodies do-it-yourself (DIY) and bicycle-recycling strategies.
Renting a bike from the LRK pool sidesteps red-tape obstacles like registration or membership fees. Interested parties should just have a look at the LRK website for detailed information about dimensions, maximum loaded weight and rental conditions. As a second step, potential clients need to e-mail LRK to set an appointment for the handing-over of the cargo bike. Rental is based on voluntary donations according to the pay-as-you-wish principle. A deposit for the bikes rented serves to minimise loss in case of theft and is used for repairs in case of wilful damage. In the same way, an appointment is fixed for returning the bike, which is then briefly examined for potential damage.
LRK has managed to change the cityscape of Vienna. Special actions, such as e.g. a house moving convoy composed of several cargo bikes across Vienna or a live concert of 16 musicians on cargo bikes in the context of a Critical Mass event, were outstanding collective experiences that have generated attention and anchored cargo bikes more firmly in the cityscape. This helps to strengthen awareness of the unlimited possibilities offered by the brilliant invention that is the cargo bike and moreover promotes bicycle traffic in general.
Since the establishment of LRK, the situation of cargo bike use in the German-speaking region has changed quite a lot. Inspired directly by the Vienna Cargo Bike Collective, the worldwide platform Velogistics.net was initiated in Berlin. Velogistics uses an online map of the world to visualise the geographic location, models, details and rental conditions of cargo bikes available for shared use. In many German cities (such as Munich, Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg), the “Postfossil Mobil“ project by the non-profit association anstiftung&ertomis organises cargo bike self-build workshops. And the website www.werkstatt-lastenrad.de provides detailed instructions on how to build your very own cargo bike.
The model of collective cargo bike use is currently being tested on a wider scale, and many collectives similar to Vienna’s LRK are emerging (see links at the bottom of this article). In our opinion, strategies such as self-administration and self-governance, collective use and the increased shift of small-scale transports from car to bike are essential in order to tap even wider potentials for urban cycling.
We want to thank the members of the Vienna Lastenradkollektiv very cordially for their support of this article and wish the entire LRK group all the best for the future.
Velo-city 2013 Vienna | Cycling Stories
Stefania del Sordo, Annemarie Sulzberger, Julia Wölcher, Florian Lorenz
Velo-city 2013 Communications Team