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Using Cargo Bikes for Business
Adrian: Can I get you to tell me a little about yourself and your business?
Kupa: My name is Kupa. I’m from New Zealand originally but I’ve been living in Japan for the last few years. My wife is Japanese and we have three children. In Japan we use our bikes everyday for shopping and socailising so it was very natural to continue riding here. I arrived in Sydney in April this year and I’ve been based in the CBD working as a shop fitting carpenter and joiner. I also run my own coffee exporting business. I use a Bullitt cargobike as my primary means of transport and the vehicle for conducting my carpentry work.
Adrian: How do people react when they see riding through the city on a cargobike?
Kupa: It’s been very positive, but some people are shocked. You ride down the street and people just stop and look at you. At a traffic light last week, an engineer asked me about the bike and said: ‘that’s the smartest thing I’ve seen’. He repaired air-conditioning systems and carried all of his equipment from site to site in a backpack. He even took a photo of the bike to show his boss. I think there’s a growing awareness about the benefits of using cargobikes for business. For many contractors, parking is getting too expensive and the places I work often don’t allow parking because there’s just no room. People have to drop off their tools, go and a find park, and then come back. They can spend up 1.5hrs just doing this each day. Money-wise I think I’m saving up to $200 a week from not using a car.
Adrian: How do you find carrying all your equipment on the cargo bike?
I use Festool tools which are a German company that design their tools to fit in modular boxes so they can easily pack down and clip together. Hans Fogh, who designed the Bullitt, was also a carpenter and he uses the same tools on his bike. They fit perfectly in the Bullitt. I can carry all the tools I need and can do any job that a traditional carpenter would do with a car.
Adrian: What about materials?
Kupa: I also carry them on the bike. I usually carry them flat packed on top of the bike. If I have too many materials to fit on the bike, I’ll get them delivered to site which is far more efficient for everybody. Last week I built some stairs for the Australian Museum which I made here in my workshop, flat-packed onto the bike, and then assembled over at the museum. There are some limitations with using the cargobike but not many.
Adrian: How do people respond when you arrive at a worksite with a cargobike?
Kupa: They’re often a little shocked. When I did an induction at the museum, I told the guy I was going to arrive on a bike and he just rolled his eyes. The next day I turned up, I was given a pass to enter, and they let me push the bike right through into to the middle of the museum. However, at one site, OH&S did not allow me to enter the loading dock to unload my tools on the bike, so a colleague met me in front, we loaded his ute and drove 25 metres to the dock and unloaded. It may take some time before cargobikes are fully accepted.
Adrian: How hard was it to get a cargobike in Australia?
Kupa: I’d been looking for about two years in Japan and I was going to buy one when we were living there but it was quite expensive. When I arrived in Australia, I contacted an importer in Melbourne to see if they had any ex-demo bikes and he informed me that a tourist had actually bought a Bullitt and rode it from Melbourne to Sydney. He was looking to sell it before leaving Australia, so I went to meet him straight away and bought it on the spot. It was the best thing I ever did. I did look at some other cargobikes but I had my heart set on a Bullitt.
Adrian: What do you see as the main advantages of using a cargobike compared to a small van?
Kupa: Well it’s the cost of parking, insurance and compliance which probably the main advantages. For city based work, at a certain point a car can be a liability and reduce productivity. I was working briefly on a major city project last week, and there were up to 10 contractors having to stop work every hour just to go down several levels to feed the parking meter. For me, having a cargobike goes beyond just using it for work. I use my cargobike for many other activities including shopping and social events. In the city is just easier to use the cargobike because I don’t have look for parking. The bike allows me to do everything a small van can do and more. I’ve actually have a car parked in a garage but I haven’t used it for months because it’s just not worth it. I’m really in the habit now of just jumping on the bike for everything I do.
Adrian: Would you ever consider getting an electric conversion put on your bike?
Kupa: I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe on my next bike, I’ll get an electric motor put in. I’ve done jobs in Lewisham and Balmain and have always managed to get over the hills. Sometimes coming home in the evening, I think it would be nice to have a little bit of assistance on the hills.
Adrian: Have you felt fitter since you started using the bike?
Kupa: Absolutely! I think I’ve lost three kgs in the last couple of months. I usually carry around 20-30 kgs on the bike each day, but I’ve carried loads of up to 140kgs. It’s definitely trimmed me up a bit.
Adrian: How have you found riding in the traffic?
Kupa: I’ve found that car drivers give me a little bit more room than a normal bike. The bike lanes have helped and I try and keep to them where I can. I try to avoid the CBD between 3pm and 6pm because it’s just so busy in peak hour. Generally car drivers have been quite considerate to me, particularly when I’m loaded up.
Adrian: What businesses do you think maybe interested in using cargobikes now and in the future?
Kupa: Fitness trainers have expressed an interest because they usually carry all their equipment in a big bag. They could go from park to park quite easily on a cargobike. It’s also sending a good message about keeping fit by riding instead of driving. Any company that does short haul deliveries could benefit from using a cargobike, for example a coffee business, like my own, could use it to make deliveries from café to café. A lot of tradesmen, such as electricians, could use a cargobike. They often think they need a big van, but in reality you only ever use 10% of your tools on any day. If you work out what’s important and just keep your core tools, almost all of them will fit in a cargobike, particularly if you’re doing jobs that involve call-outs and repairs.
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