Note: I bought a Bakfiets long cargo bike in September 2010 from Dutch Cargo Bikes and couldn't be happier. A follow-up (3yr) review is here. I am now a local ambassador for Dutch Cargo Bikes. If you would like to test ride this bike in Brisbane (or a three wheeler) email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgRecent discussions on cycling culture and the imminent arrival of our second child have resulted in an obsession with cargo bikes or Bakfiets (Dutch for boxbikes). These bikes are taking the world buy storm, and have now made their way to Australia, with the market well served by DutchCargoBike.com.au, who offer a variety of models.
I want one, exactly like in the photo above, but I don’t know why.
Economists generally believe people know how to make decisions that maximise their welfare. But in many cases we can’t know how much we will enjoy our consumption decisions in advance, since we have never experienced them before – such goods are known as experience goods.
Having already test-ridden one and been impressed, I am now attempting to evaluate the bike's worth by first itemising the pros and cons. Any assistance or insight or suggestions are appreciated.
Can handle a load of groceries plus children for short trips
Can pick up hitchhikers
No parking or fuel costs and only minimal maintenance
$3150 for the bike
Over $4000 if you want electric motor assistance
Plenty of hills in Brisbane
Size and manoeuvrability
Extreme summer heat (can buy a shade for the kids though)
More importantly, to determine the value to our family of the bike I have been thinking in terms of marginal utility. Instead of thinking how good or practical the bike could be in isolation, I think in terms of how much better having the bike would be compared to our current situation.
Our family owns a car which this bike will not replace. Nor will trips by cargo bike replace trips by car. So cost savings for the same types of trips taken by car is not the main selling point.
Bike trailers seem to offer similar versatility, but to me they appear very impractical in terms of loading, parking, visibility in traffic, but also in terms of the ability to communicate with the kids while riding. You also need a pretty decent bike to go with the trailer as well.
The big question in terms of the economic benefit of owning such a premium bike rests on its resale value. A bike worth $3000 has a lot of value to lose, but if it maintains value, then the actual costs of owning a cargo bike for, say 5-7 years while the kids are young, could be a lot less. Let's say you can sell the bike for $2000 after 5 years. That seems a pretty reasonable guess. The cost of ownership is then around $1000 in total over 5 years, or $250 a year. Add in a new tyre or two, a service or two at the local bike shop and you might get up to $300 a year. To me looking at it this way I can see gains in terms of marginal utility (the sheer fun and practicality of owning a bike) that far outweigh this marginal cost.
The bike is looking quite tempting.
In terms of whether Australia will embrace this global trend, I guess that depends a little on how well our cities embrace cycling in general. The capital cities are certainly becoming more dense, with more facilities living in what would be considered urban, rather than suburban, locations. Like many glob trends I see Australia catching on, but with a lag of 5-10 years. Time will tell.