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Cargo bikes reduce driving & increase happiness

My daughter Ava and I are moving a playhouse by cargo bike

Cargo bikes have been compared to the minivan or trucks of the bicycle world. Racing bikes may be the sports car. Cruiser bikes may be the convertibles. Cargo bikes fill that catch-all niche when you can't quite fit what you're bringing in a backpack or on a rack.

A cargo bike is used to carry stuff (kids, groceries, tools, a playhouse). It can be a standard bike with an additional rack for bags. In this article I'll talk about bikes built specifically to haul other items. If you're not familiar with cargo bikes, read on and you may want to watch this quick video.

Cargo bikes work well in Topeka

mom taking kid around town in a cargo bike

Katrina Shaw and Theo Alford-Shaw

Riding a cargo bike in Topeka is useful, functional and fun. Topeka is mostly flat and has a relatively good network of side streets and neighborhood streets that allow you to ride a cargo bike to the store or to grab kids at school or daycare without getting on a highway.

No all neighborhoods in Topeka work as well for biking due to how our community developed. This is why Topeka's Complete Streets Advisory Committee is working on improving that. (The link is to a document this group helped put out in 2019.)

Connecting to your community & nature

taking recycling by cargo bike

Karl Fundenberger

Cargo bikes enable the rider to grab a chair, some snacks or a beverage and any kids and head across Topeka in 15-20 minutes or over a few blocks if your friends are in the neighborhood to have a fun evening without a car. It makes an average day into an adventure.

Cargo bikes bring the short travel experience back to a human scale. On a bike you smell the air, see new things your neighbors are doing with their gardens and feel closer to your community. You can even grab the chair your neighbors 3 blocks over are pitching on the way home, because you have a bungee cord to attach it to your bike.

Cargo bikes loaded and driving in Collins Park 4th of July parade

Back row: Me, Zach Snethen, Matt Messina | Front Row: Ava Fry, Oliver Snethen, Wheeler Benson-Ross, Theo Alford-Shaw in July 4th parade

Cargo bikes are that flexible middle ground between driving and having a car, or riding your 10-speed or mountain bike to work everyday. They allow life in Topeka's random spur of the moment inclinations to still continue and don't make riding a bike force you to concede and not do something "because I rode my bike today."

Ava Fry is ready to go after a bakery pickup.

Riding a cargo bike leaves your day open to a little unknown. You could stop by the bakery on the way to work for a few dozen doughnuts to share with coworkers. Grab a to-go meal from downtown for an impromptu backyard picnic when you get home. Pick up your kid and a friend from daycare for a play date.

Meet local cargo bike owners & watch documentary

Motherload movie posterSee cargo bikes in person, talk to bike owners and watch an amazing documentary at the library Tue, Sept 14, 5:30-8:30pm.

Motherload is an award-winning documentary that uses the cargo bike as the vehicle for exploring parenthood in this digital age of climate change. Having cycled everywhere until she had twins in 2008, filmmaker Liz Canning felt stifled by the idea of transporting her babies via car. She Googled “family bike” and uncovered a global movement of people replacing cars with cargo bikes: long-frame bicycles designed for carrying heavy loads. Liz set out to learn more, and Motherload was born. 86 min Runtime

This event is a collaborative offering from the Topeka Community Cycle Project, City of Topeka Neighborhood Relations and the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

cargo bike giveaway


Attend Sept 14 library event and you may win this bike! Free to enter. Must be present to win.

More cargo bike resources

dad and kid ready to ride on cargo bike

Miles and Matt Messina

If you'd like to learn more about cargo bikes in Topeka or talk to some Topekans who currently own a cargo bike, feel free to email the Topeka Community Cycle Project at!

The Bike Shop Girl: Awesome resource on many cargo bikes and accessories and practical ways to use them.
G & O Family Cyclery: A favorite amongst bike shops
Clever Cycles: Another reputable bike shop that is fluent in all things cargo bike
Pedal Parents Facebook group: Good dialogue and product improvisation for families wanting to haul kids in their daily routines.

Written by

Andy Fry member of Topeka Community Cycle Project

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