“The cargo bike is a great invention.”
30.10.2020 | People & Society
Andreas Jancke is a real car enthusiast, working, as he does, as an automotive journalist and presenter of the VOX TV show “auto mobil”. Nonetheless, his E-Cargo bike is his number one mode of transport around town, especially when it comes to transporting his whole kit and caboodle. He explains to us in an interview why this is the case, whether E-Cargo bikes can actually replace cars, and what needs to be done in towns and cities to encourage more people to make the switch.
Andreas, you work as an actor, automotive journalist and presenter of the VOX TV show “auto mobil”. How come a real car enthusiast like you is interested in bikes?
Cycling has always been essential for me. It is one of the simplest pleasures in life, and nothing has changed that in all the years since I rode the first few metres without falling off. As the presenter of a car show, it may not seem intuitive to some people that I’m also interested in bikes. But, for me, cars and bikes continue to have the same importance to this day. Some of my colleagues may be real petrol heads – they have petrol running through their veins – by contrast, I could actually manage without internal combustion engines. Whenever I can, I use one of my bikes. And, in doing so, I burn calories. Even on an E-Bike.
Speaking of which: what do you think about E-Bikes and E-Cargo bikes as modes of transport?
Admittedly, I was a little sceptical when the first models with assistance came onto the market, and initially I laughed at them. Not only because, at that time, they had the reputation of being bikes for senior citizens, but also because the sight of the earliest “flanged motor block” took a bit of getting used to. And then as I realised the potential that the technology boasted, I became interested from both a journalistic and also private standpoint. Now electric motors and batteries are so well integrated that their appearance no longer presents an obstacle. The technology has matured. And the fact is, the more you try it, the more fun it is. Whether it’s the 1,000 metres of climb that you can suddenly achieve with your E-MTB, or the “Car versus E-Bike” commuter comparison we produced with Vox: E-Bikes have reinvented the bike and are also revealing many new ways of rethinking mobility. It was actually when I became a father that the E-Cargo bike became my vehicle of choice around town, when I need to transport my kit and caboodle. I look forward to all the innovations that still await us in this field.
As a journalist, you deal with trends and innovative solutions relating to cars and traffic on a daily basis. As an expert, how do you view the mobility mix of the future?
It becomes clear to me every day in Düsseldorf, where I work and live, that we certainly do not need more cars in cities. But how can we break down these historically evolved structures? A brief look at our neighbours shows how it can be done if you take a different approach from the outset. In August, we filmed a show for TV in the Dutch town of Houten, a town that was designed from scratch so that bikes always have priority and are not slowed down by traffic lights. It worked surprisingly well in the town. Cars are not totally banned there, but no longer call the tune in the town centre. This seems to me to be a good approach for a town that is worth living in. A balanced mobility mix therefore starts with traffic zones being redistributed fairly, and public transport becoming increasingly attractive. When it comes to cars, I hope that alternative drives will make cars more environmentally friendly so that they can continue to demonstrate their benefits. But this will be hard to achieve without accompanying measures, such as intelligent traffic management, smart car parks and a comprehensive charging station solution for plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
A few months ago, you put the Riese & Müller Packster 60 touring HS through its paces. What is your conclusion at the end of this trial? Can E-Cargo bikes replace cars in everyday life and make a significant contribution to solving traffic problems?
Whatever the version, cargo bikes are a great invention. They play an essential role in equalising increasingly dense inner-city traffic. Even parcel services are now riding into the city with these XXL cargo bikes. We would not have some of the core traffic problems we have today if cargo bikes had already played a more important role in the past. Like they have been doing in Amsterdam for some time, for instance. But can cargo bikes actually replace cars? I think that there are good opportunities for this in town and city centres. If – as is the case with the Packster HS I tested – they come with assistance of up to 45 km/h, then they actually get you even faster from A to B. The additional thrust you get above 25 km/h is really valuable on many routes. However, in the absence of an adapted infrastructure and modern legislation, even the most amazing bike is not faster, and no more efficient or flexible than a car. Cities and local authorities need to follow suit here. At the present time, I regard E-Cargo bikes as a magnificent complement to cars. Out of all bikes, they have the greatest potential to deliver completely new solutions in the commercial sector and, at the very least, replace second cars in private households.
What benefits do E-Cargo bikes have over cars?
I actually wrote the answer to this question in an article on the Load 75 vario HS: an E-Cargo bike may never offer the comfort and protection of a car. But, by contrast, a car will never be as socially compatible, flexible and environmentally friendly as a cargo bike. One of the incidental side-effects of a cargo bike is that it is good for your health and also for your wallet in the long term because of its low operating costs. I wouldn’t want to be without one now. However, I wouldn’t want to be without a car either.
In your view, what else needs to change at a political and social level for even more people to have the confidence to switch from cars to E-Bikes?
A lot is currently changing at a social level. You only have to take a look at bike retailers and the accessories industry to see that bikes are currently experiencing a massive boom in sales. However, it should not have taken a global epidemic or the consequences or the diesel scandal to boost bikes. Conscientious and progressive-thinking policymakers would have noticed earlier that bikes, especially all the smaller electrical ‘Pedelec’ versions, need to play a more important role in urban transport. However, there continues to be a lack of sustainable funding programmes, safe cycle paths, flowing cycling traffic with fewer traffic lights and sensible parking options. A lot still needs to be done here.
Not every city needs to become a carbon copy of Copenhagen. But I do think that with more protected bike paths, for instance, many more people would get on their bike. Many people don’t know how good it feels to cycle a few kilometres instead of taking the car. I am not saying this because I want to banish cars from our towns and cities, but because that is why many people drive only short distances in their cars. Cycling in our towns and cities is simply too unattractive, too complicated and often too dangerous. Bikes would then often become a much more attractive way for people to get to their destinations. If it became easier for people to take their bike with them on public transport in future, more commuters would probably ride the last mile on their own bike. But all this is useless if there is not enough space to park your bike at your destination. I don’t know how many times I have written to the Düsseldorf City Council – but there is still too little happening on our doorstep and elsewhere. Here in the state capital, they are still overwhelmed by the task of suddenly having to design pop-up bike lanes.
What should people take into account when buying an E-Cargo bike – especially if they want it to replace a car in the long term?
You simply cannot have too many accessories to adapt the bike to all kinds of different uses. A crucial extra, in addition to a good lock, is a simple-to-use rain hood. After all, what’s the use of a stylish cargo bike if you leave it at home whenever it’s cold or raining.? The more extensively the bike can be equipped with accessories, the more fun you’ll have with it and the more often it will be used.