The History of Cargo Bikes

The History of Cargo Bikes

Cargo bikes originated in The Netherlands in the early 20 century, and were used by tradesmen to deliver milk, bread, and other goods in the absence of the automobile. By the 1930s, the phenomenon had spread across Scandinavia. In Copenhagen, Denmark, bike messengers called svajeres carted goods all around the city, and nearly every company owned at least one cargo bike to handle their deliveries.

Around the same time in the UK, deliveries were being made by “butcher’s bike,” a light-capacity cargo bike with a rack mounted to the frame over the front wheel. The British trend spread to the US, where Schwinn produced the original American “cycle truck,” which sold over 10,000 units in a year at its peak of popularity during WWII.

While cargo bikes have remained immensely popular for carting everything from kids to couches in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, their use waned considerably in North America when mass marketing of the private automobile began in earnest. These days, many North Americans have never even heard of a bicycle with high carrying capacity.

Only with the recent trend towards high-density urbanism have we seen a resurgence of interest in cargo bikes over here. As with the regular bicycle, many of the original cargo bikes designs are essentially the same today as they were in the early 20th century, with a few modern technological upgrades.


Tricycles or Cycle Rickshaws usually feature an elongated frame with two wheels at the front or back for added stability, with a cargo platform, box, or seat between the two wheels. Cycle rickshaws are common in parts of Asia and Africa as bike taxis, while cargo trikes (often with a box) are common in Europe for personal use, and are becoming increasingly popular in North America.


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