Cargo bikes: ‘I was horrified at the price, but the grants are good’

With return of the school run, there are more and more cargo bikes on the streets. Are they worth the often jaw-dropping price?

The school run has returned and for some families the cargo bike is now an integral part of the flow. Once a novelty, the sight of these striking bikes has become more common. The pandemic was a factor in increasing popularity but according to suppliers the doubling of the bike-to-work scheme to €3,000, which came into play in January, also boosted sales. Those who use them praise the bikes for being hassle-free, emissions friendly and safe. But even the non-electric ones are jaw-droppingly pricey so we asked some seasoned users: are cargo bikes worth it?

‘I was horrified at the price’

Dublin-based architect Sterrin O’Shea was shocked when they splashed out just over €8,000 in May 2020, but says their electric Riese & Müller cargo bike has proved a solid investment.

“At the time our kids were aged two and four, one in Montessori in Dún Laoghaire, one in primary in Blackrock and I had 15 minutes between pickups.

“We were renting in Monkstown while our house in Blackrock got done up, and had no idea of the amazing cycle lanes that would appear in our area. We had lived in New York and London and were used to not driving. We had a car but my husband drove it to work and the house we lived in had room for one. A parent at the Montessori got a cargo bike from Greenaer in Dublin city centre so I sent my husband in to try one out and he returned home with the Porsche version.”


“I was horrified at the price, but the grants are good and I hear the resale value is €5,000 even after years of use. My daughter’s head now touches the top of the tarpaulin but we are reluctant to sell it, as I use it for midweek shopping, and the kids have activities in different places. Some people say your child should be scooting or cycling but on certain roads this is not safe, though the cargo bike does not feel as safe as a car,” says O’Shea, adding that the German engineering and dual suspension make for a smooth riding and passenger experience.

It feels safe, though hills are a problem, but it’s excellent for popping to playgrounds, the pool, the supermarket or for bringing bottles to recycle

—  Eoin Hardiman

“Ours is long and narrow so we don’t have issues passing cars like some of the big three wheelers. While the first couple of seconds are intimidating then it’s fine. The electrics make it very stable. We have the rain gear but it does not rain as often as you would think. The kids love it, it’s like my therapy now. I work in Dún Laoghaire a bit and enjoy cycling down by the sea and my husband often takes it when he goes into town.”

She notes wryly that these bikes are definitely in vogue. “I’m glad I got mine a few years ago as there’s a bit of a slag on them, like the sea swimmers with the robes. If you have a dry-robe and a cargo bike you’re doomed, but for me it’s not a statement, it’s so functional.”

‘I bought second hand, there was too much of a wait for a new one’

Eoin Hardiman bought his Babboe for €900 three years ago off a pal and used it so much around his Dublin 6 neighbourhood he got a second, more streamlined, cargo bike to take his three kids on longer journeys.

“Both times I bought second hand as there was too much of a wait for a new one and both were non-electric as I like the fitness element. My wife, Michelle, does not cycle in Dublin. Maybe if you have a couple who both use it, the electric would be worth it, but I remember going to Copenhagen and seeing most of the cargo bikes were not electric,” he says.

“I had a bike with a seat on the back and we got the cargo when we had our second child. Short journeys were my motivation as I don’t like walking with the buggy. I detest putting the kids in car seats, they detest getting into them and there’s too much traffic to drive anyway”.

“The Babboe is heavy. There are two wheels at the front and one at the back, a sort of tricycle. It feels safe, though hills are a problem, but it’s excellent for popping to playgrounds, the pool, the supermarket or for bringing bottles to recycle”.

I’m waiting a few years until our youngest can cycle as it’s like our second car, so convenient, I even did the Christmas shopping in it last year

—  Aimee Lenehan

His wife has gone back to work so he does the drop-offs and says while people used to ask him about his bike, these days on an average morning he will spot eight or nine of the bikes. “We have one in junior infants and two in different Montessoris so it’s a godsend in the morning. I’m flying around the place and it works perfectly, though the bollards on the road supposed to protect cyclists often end up not helping, along with buses not having their own island to stop or cars parking in cycle lanes,” says Hardiman, a barrister who spent €2,200 on his second cargo bike.

“I wanted one for longer journeys, like going to Seapoint, so just before last summer I bought a Larry Vs Harry Bullitt on This takes two kids and I’m about to put a seat on the crossbar. Thinkbike in Rathmines is helping me. I bought second hand as I wanted to use it immediately and, being self-employed, sadly I don’t qualify for the bike to work, though I’m not sure I’d spend €8,000 as a couple of friends had their one stolen.”

‘There’s a bit of arm work in it and it takes effort to turn’

The straps on cargo bikes can be adjusted or fitted with insets for babies, which is what Aimee Lenehan, who lives in Dublin 6, did with her fourth child three years ago when she bought her non-electric Bakfiet online from the Dutch bike shop.

“They used to have a shop in Clonskeagh but moved to a yard in Lucan. I had to wait three months and paid around €1,800. I hear the price has now gone up ,” says Lenehan.

Before I got mine I saw the odd one around Ranelagh but now there are so many at our school. I have a two-wheeler, I’d say the three-wheelers are steadier. There is a bit of arm work in it and it takes effort to turn but I can handle it fine and generally cars on the road give you a wide berth, though taxi drivers sometimes get impatient,” she says. “The school is less than 2km away and I was trying to get some exercise, though now I wish I got the electric version so I could go longer distances”.

When she bought it, Lenehan, a solicitor, had three children in the cargo bike and her eldest cycled beside. Now her second youngest has started to cycle himself but she plans to hold off from selling it.

“I’m waiting a few years until our youngest can cycle as it’s like our second car, so convenient, I even did the Christmas shopping in it last year.”

Reducing car use is a cheap way to cut emissions and makes for cleaner air so there’s been a policy push lately on cargo bikes including initiatives such as the Bike Library concept and the expansion of Dublin City Council’s Bikes for Business scheme.

‘My kids love it, we are the only ones at school who have one’

A serious cyclist, Anluan Dunne, is flying the flag for cargo bikes in Kerry in his electric Urban Arrow.

Dunne, Green Party representative for Tralee, got rid of his second car before Covid and says, though the cycle tracks are very limited, he is cycling about 5,000km a year, using the new greenway plus unofficial greenways as much as possible.

“I have two kids in primary. During term my wife works about 50km away and all of the kid-related stuff falls to me or the grandparents. I use it for the school run, dropping to childcare, activities and nipping to the shops for dinner and for carrying objects from the garden centre. We bought the big rain cover but only use it in the depths of winter, the low one is more compact,” says Dunne.

He will soon trade in the bike, probably for a more compact long-tail version, where children go on the back.

“My kids love it, we are the only ones at the school who have one, but my daughter is 11 now so I imagine won’t be seen dead in it next year,” he laughs. “I would have felt vulnerable on the road when I began, but your riding style changes. In Dublin the streets are wider so you can take the lane but in Tralee I operate like a car, I am in the way, very visible. The odd lunatic tries to cut you off, but you get fewer beeps than a normal bike. There’s no malice in it.”

‘They have to be desirable as well as environmentally friendly’

Olivier Vander Elst, co-founder of bike supplier GreenAer, says where the county councils are good on cycle lanes, uptake has increased and interest is building outside Dublin.

“In our Mullingar shop and in Cork, where we opened three years ago, we now stock most of the range. In Galway there has been a sort of counter-movement, the traffic is so congested,” says Vander Elst.

“In Sandyford 35 per cent of our sales are now cargo bikes. The increase in the bike-to-work scheme pushed up demand and lately we have seen cargo bikes by cluster – one person at a school or creche gets it and other families follow.”

He says an increasing scrutiny on car use for short journeys is emerging. “They have become a status symbol, which is great, as to take off they have to also be desirable, as well as environmentally friendly. If you only gear it to hardcore cyclists it won’t make a difference,” he says.

Things to consider before buying a cargo bike

What are the cycle lanes like in your area and how much will you use it? If you want it for long distances, better to go electric.

The bikes with the box in front are ideal for smaller kids, older kids can sit in a trailer, and long-tail bikes evolve as the kids grow, as you can replace child seats with cushions.

Anne Bedost of Rothar Bikes advises a decent lock and, to deter theft, remove the batteries, if possible, when you leave it somewhere or when at home. Before you buy, consider whether you have adequate storage for the bike.

They are pricey but keep in mind the good resale value, the idea is to pass them on, as they outlive their use. There is usually a wait for a new one but there’s a burgeoning second-hand market.

The bike to work scheme only covers the employed and new bikes and can be renewed every four years. For the self-employed, some suppliers, like Greenaer, offer leasing options.

And finally, it makes sense to borrow a cargo bike and take it for a spin before deciding whether it’s for you.