Running simple errands on a bike–like picking up groceries on the way home from work–can be one of the challenges of urban cycling that might tempt people to drive instead. Bike baskets are often heavy and get in the way on crowded streets when they’re not in use, panniers are too expensive to leave on the street, and if you don’t happen to have a backpack with you, you might end up precariously dangling shopping bags from your handlebars.
After cycling around the streets of Vienna for eight years, two architecture students decided to design an alternative: A pair of sturdy cardboard panniers that someone can pick up at a store, fold together, and use to carry a full load of groceries home.
“The bike would be the perfect means of traveling through cities if it was not for the issue of shopping and transportation of things,” say the designers Matthias Lechner and Philipp Moherndl. “At the shop we often asked ourselves if our bag is still big enough to transport all the goods safely back home. Is the water bottle too heavy?”
The Packtasche, which translates as “pack bag,” folds together in about 30 seconds, and is strong enough to carry things that might break through an ordinary bag. It also doubles as a shopping basket in the store.
“We wanted to make it as smooth as possible to switch from being a pedestrian to getting on a bike,” says Lechner. “You can stop in front of the store, step inside, get a Packtasche, do all your shopping in it, put it on your rack, and you’re ready to go.” At home, the carrier pops off in a couple of seconds and can be used to easily carry groceries up flights of stairs in one hand.
It’s designed to be durable enough to be used several times, even in a little bit of rainy weather, before it’s recycled. “I still use one of the first prototypes we made a year ago, after about 70 trips,” Lechner says. But unlike other panniers, the main point of the Packtasche is that it doesn’t have to be carried around–you can pick it up whenever you need it, so you don’t necessarily have to plan ahead.
“You’re spontaneous in a way,” says Lechner. “With more expensive bags, you always have to carry them with you. If you’re going to work, you don’t want to have a big bicycle courier bag with you, especially if you work in a more formal environment.”
The designers plan to eventually sell the carriers in grocery stores alongside other bags, but for the moment, they’re giving them away, funded by companies who want to use the packs as advertising. “Bike riders are quite slow, and very visible, and they always travel the main roads, so it’s a perfect match for marketing,” Lechner explains.
Ultimately, they hope that the design will get more commuters out of cars. “If the bicycle is really to become the means of transport for future generations, it has to succeed in all everyday tasks, such as transporting things and shopping,” they say.