On a recent field trip to a lighthouse in a state park in South Portland, Maine, six preschoolers piled into a bright yellow cargo bike instead of a van or bus. The school is one of the first to use the bike, which was designed to help daycares and small schools—or large families—cut emissions, introduce toddlers to biking, and make it easier to take short trips.
“I prefer not to put [the kids] in the car if I can avoid it,” says Stacie Archibald, who runs Your Little Artist Playschool in South Portland and has been using an early prototype of the bike for several months. The reasons are practical—it’s hard to corral multiple toddlers into car seats simultaneously, and a van (and the required training for a daycare to use one) can be expensive. “I definitely don’t want to fill a tank of gas and drive my preschool around—I operate on a pretty tight budget,” she says. She adds that riding in the back of the cargo bike is entertainment in itself; she’ll often stop to let the kids watch birds at a park or construction workers using trucks. She uses it even for short trips, as it’s safer to have the children inside the bike than trying to cross a street with multiple children on foot.
Made by Texas-based Bunch Bikes, the cargo bike was inspired by a similar vehicle the designers saw on a trip to Sweden. “I thought, how cool would it be if we could have something like this in our country, and preschools that can’t afford a van or don’t want to deal with regulations of a van could bike kids around?” says founder Aaron Powell. (The company also makes a similarly adorable cargo bike for dogs.) The bike is fairly expensive, at $3,495, though a van can cost 10 times more. It has a powerful electric motor—so it isn’t work for the teacher riding it—and has safety harnesses to hold children in place. Powell hopes that it will help children embrace cycling young. “It’s impressing on them that this is an active lifestyle,” he says. “And they grow up saying, okay, riding a bike is normal.”