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“E-cargo bikes solve so many of the problems of our time.”

The Austrian Madeleine Alizadeh is an environmental activist, author and podcaster, and is helping to shape the value perception of an entire generation as one of the best-known sustainability influencers in the German-speaking world under her username @dariadaria. For several months, she has been riding the Riese & Müller Packster 40 in order to get around her home city of Vienna as climate-neutrally as possible. In an interview, she talks about sustainable mobility, her expectations of infrastructure and society and how riding an E-Bike has changed her day-to-day life.

Madeleine Alizadeh (© Maria Noisternig)

1.    Madeleine, as an environmental activist and as one of the most well-known influencers in the German-speaking region, you have been campaigning for years for greater sustainability to be practised in all areas of life. In your opinion, how does our approach to mobility need to change and what do you do to travel climate neutral?

First and foremost: I don’t always travel climate neutral. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Unfortunately, as before, I still have to fly to places that I can’t get to by train. Having said that, I’ve changed a lot in recent years. Over six years ago, I started taking the sleeper train again and it’s just so great that sleeper trains have now become popular again. And Austrian Rail has even expanded its network. Really nice new sleeper compartments are set to arrive in 2021! Personally, I cycle a lot, use car sharing schemes and sometimes just walk to places. The ‘car occupancy rate’, in particular, is what troubles me when it comes to mobility. This is a figure that states how many people on average are sitting in a car. It used to be around 3 people per car but now it’s only 1.45. In short, vehicles are inefficiently used, take up lots of space and generate disproportionately more emissions. There are few incentives to share cars or leave the car at home particularly in cities.

2.    You have been riding a Riese & Müller Packster 40 vario for some months. How often do you use it during the week and what do you use it for?

I use it all the time, especially when I’m out with my dog. Mala weighs around 9 kg and using a basket makes a normal bike wobbly as well as challenging to ride up the hill to my apartment. Since I’ve had the Packster 40, I simply put Mala on it and off we go. She also loves it, looks around and experiences a pleasant wind through her coat in summer. When it rains, I simply close the cover. I also use the bike when I need to go shopping or take parcels to the post office – it’s not an understatement when I say that I am the biggest fan of this bike!

3.    What do you really like about E-Cargo bikes as modes of transport?

I just love so much about them. First and foremost, it’s a real and sensible alternative to driving a car. Whether you need to carry children, luggage or animals – you can pack a lot on an E-Cargo bike and, thanks to its e-assistance, you never get sweaty or exhausted. I feel safe on the road as it’s stable and takes up enough room that car drivers take you seriously. You’re never held up in traffic jams, it's easy to park and it’s good for body and soul.

4.    Has riding an E-Bike changed your daily life?

Totally! I never think twice now about going out. When I need to take my dog Mala for I walk, I can now be in the park within minutes instead of walking her round the block on pavements, and without it costing me more time. I’ve become much more spontaneous and keen to get out of the apartment!

5.    How do people around you react to you cycling on an E-cargo bike? Do you think you could also motivate other people to switch from car to E-Bike?

My friends and acquaintances call me the “door-to-door salesperson” of E-cargo bikes as I want to convince them all of the merits of this bike. E-cargo bikes solve so many of the problems of our time, while also being so much fun. I’m often approached about my bike when I’m cycling in traffic.

6.    In your opinion, what infrastructure changes are still needed in towns and cities?

Cycling safety and infrastructure is poor almost everywhere. The general view of cycling needs to be improved and made more attractive. Cycle paths are often too exposed, dangerous and used by drivers to park their cars. Model cycling countries, like the Netherlands, show that the majority of city dwellers are capable of switching to bikes with ease. What we need to do is put in place the right framework for this to happen. For me, a city worth living in is one where there is a focus on cycling.