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The chimney sweep: “Climate protection is a question of mind over matter.”

Chimney sweep Norbert Skrobek always turns heads along the roadside when he rides his Load 75 around the streets of Berlin-Kreuzberg. And it is not just children that are wide-eyed when the “Good Luck-mobile” rides past them. We spoke to the committed activist about how Cargo Bikes have developed in recent years and why he has now completely transitioned his carbon-neutral business over to Cargo Bikes.

You have been using Cargo Bikes since the early 1990s. What do you like about them so much?
I have been using Cargo Bikes since 1993, when I went self-employed. What has always impressed me is the possibility of carrying a lot of equipment over short distances. Of course, there are many other benefits in the city.

Norbert Skrobek's first Cargo Bike dating from 1993.

What do you regard as being the advantages of Cargo Bikes over cars?
Without a shadow of a doubt: you are simply much faster and more flexible around town! You don’t have any parking problems and can ride right up to the customer’s property. And the subsequent maintenance costs of a Cargo Bike are much lower than with a car.

Could you describe the first Cargo Bike you had back in 1993? What was it like to ride?
I think that today you might describe its riding comfort as a real pain in the behind (laughs). The bike had only one brake, a lever you pulled on the seat. It really wasn't very convenient or comfortable. Nonetheless, I used it for several years until I sold it to a magician.

In your view, how have bikes developed since then?
Riding comfort has improved massively. And the riding behaviour has also improved hugely with new gear shifts, electric assistance and improved seat comfort. It is kind of like comparing an old Ford F-1 to one of today's cars (laughs). There has really been massive growth particularly in the last five years, with the Cargo Bike scene now really taking off.


Today you ride a Load 75. What do you like about the Cargo Bike?
Definitely its riding comfort! The suspension is 100% better than other Cargo Bikes! The seat position is more comfortable, and the suspension means that there is less strain on your body. You have a much more ergonomic sitting position on the Load than on other Cargo Bikes and it is also much easier to ride. The low step-through is also very comfortable. You can still get onto the bike really easily, even if you are a little older and can no longer lift your legs as well. My employees and I need to transport bulky and heavy equipment in our day-to-day work – the Load also carries plenty of weight and yet is still easy to ride.

 

Around 30 years ago, you were probably still relatively alone on the streets in Berlin with your Load bike. What is your take on the current rising popularity of Cargo Bikes?
(Laughing) Yes, it was still a sensation back then. People saw me as a real oddball! There was hardly anyone with a Cargo Bike in the Prenzlauer Berg district, or at least I don’t remember having seen anyone. I got a lot of looks. Nowadays there are literally hundreds of Cargo Bikes there: parents with children, tradespeople ...
I see it as a very positive development. We don’t get in each other’s way in traffic – we just go with the flow. And if you see another Cargo Bike or find yourself standing next to one at traffic lights, you usually smile and exchange a few words. But then I’m actually always rather proud to be riding a Load.

 

In a TV interview, you explained how it took some convincing to get your employees on board with the Cargo Bikes. Have they now changed their minds?
Yes, all my employees are now also using Cargo Bikes. We have four Cargo Bikes in total. Of course, the comfort aspect was an issue with many of them at first. But I simply said: “No, from today, the car stays at home, we’re now riding bikes!”


After experiencing the benefits of the Cargo Bikes themselves, including the fact that they can park directly at the customer’s, they get around faster and it can also be fun, it was no longer an issue. Now my employees are actually more a bit jealous of my Load – our other bikes are from another manufacturer and can't really keep up with the Load.

 

How do customers and people on the road react to your Cargo Bike, your “Good Luck-mobile”?
People have a very positive opinion, after all I also work in a “green” corner of Berlin. Many people here are happy to do without a car and, of course, see it as being very positive that we run the business carbon-neutrally. After all, becoming carbon-neutral was also the reason for switching to Cargo Bikes in my company.

 

 

What other measures do you take to reduce your company's carbon emissions?
We have switched the gas supply for our condensing boiler to carbon-neutral biogas. Our electricity supply is also totally CO2-neutral. Of course, there are still carbon emissions that we cannot yet fully avoid, like those caused by our food. But we support MoorFutures to compensate for them. The project lets us buy carbon certificates and thus contribute to a specific local climate protection project. I can virtually see the moors on the outskirts of the city of Berlin, which are protected and renaturalised, among other things, thanks to our certificates. It allows large volumes of carbon to remain bound in the peat and preserves the unique flora and fauna. I always say: climate protection is a question of mind over matter! Many businesses could do more, but they don’t have the courage.

 

And have you ever managed to convince someone to buy a Cargo Bike through riding your Load?
Yes, my neighbour has now also bought a Load 75. She always saw me riding around with my dog Qualle in the cargo space and said to me: “That's just what I need, too!” She borrowed my Load, rode around the square once and the decision was made. Since then, she and her dog have also been riding a Load. She now rides to work each day and we always compare who has put more kilometres on the clock. (Laughs) Since April 2021, I have ridden around 3700 km, without any problems or repairs.


Who prefers riding the Load – you or Qualle?
Qualle thinks it is just ‘top dog’! (Laughs) She hops in and loves riding with me. It means that she can always come along when I am riding to work or am out and about, and so gets a lot of exercise. So I would have to say that Qualle enjoys riding the Load even more than I do.