At least in Germany, where the study was held. Nonetheless, the cargo bicycle advantages are not merely theoretical. Researchers took 2,590 people who rode cargo bikes and surveyed their car ownership status along with their opinions comparing the two options. The results show not only that car ownership goes down when people ride cargo bikes, but respondents claimed that their bikes were superior by almost every metric.
You can read the full study here: “Can cargo bikes compete with cars? Cargo bike sharing users rate cargo bikes superior on most motives – Especially if they reduced car ownership.”
The data reveals that 18% of cargo bike riders either got rid of a car they already owned, or they had planned to buy a car but ultimately chose not to.
But that’s just part of the story. When participants rated how their bikes compared to cars, bikes won in most categories, especially in ones that they selected as more important.
Cargo bikes were rated superior in categories like: flexibility, low price, no stress, freedom, pleasure, social recognition, self-expression, and environmentally friendly. The only categories that cars won were, perhaps unsurprisingly: travel speed, comfort, weather-independence, and just barely traffic safety.
Of course there may be a degree of selection bias. The study targeted people in Germany who already use cargo bikes. But I don’t believe that detracts from the main takeaway. Outside’s Velo made this observation:
“Duh,” you’re probably saying to yourself. “Of course someone using a cargo bike will cut down their car ownership! You don’t buy a cargo bike to not use it.”
What’s more interesting is that surveyed people agreed that cargo bikes are better than cars across nearly all aspects, regardless of whether the person was considered car-dependent or had reduced car ownership outright.
This is what makes the study significant. It challenges the conventional wisdom (at least in North America) that cars are naturally superior to all other modes of transportation. Our governments have capitalized on this belief to justify huge investments into single-use car infrastructure at the expense of every other mobility option, and usually at enormous deficits. The reality is that even a car-dependent person may find a bicycle superior to their car at times.
Looking beyond the car-versus-bicycle dichotomy, there’s another obvious truth this study reveals. Different people have different preferences for their transportation, and some people may enjoy choosing from many options. They can be “car-dependent” but still want the choice to ride a bike. This may seem self-evident, but even this is a radical idea in a culture that values car-superiority.
If it’s easy for us in North America to see these studies and say “that won’t work here,” then maybe now is the time for us to instead ask, why won’t we let it work here?