If you watch our Facebook newsfeed, you may already know that our project cargo bike arrived in Tayport last week. We have asked Mark, who cycled it over from Dundee with Dave, to tell us more about its journey and intended use:
I’ve always thought cycling and non-industrial food growing go together like tomatoes and basil, but it hasn’t always been easy to convince others. Sure, they’re both considered “green” these days, but that doesn’t mean your average roadie throws vegetable seedbombs from her bar bag as she hurtles through the landscape, or that home-grown courgettes are started off in compost fetched from the garden centre by bike. But why not?
PLANT, like most other community garden projects, came about when a number of like-minded people shared their aspirations to increase the connection and resilience of the community of Tayport by working together to grow food. In the process, and in a way as small as befits a place the size of Tayport, we would be reducing carbon emissions: not only those inherent in the production and transport of food from the place it is grown to the place it is sold (the notorious “food miles”), but also the emissions from the journey to the supermarket to buy something that could be just as easily grown at home.
But this brings us back to that bag of compost. And the containers in which the plants are grown, not to mention the seeds, the tools, the netting and supports and, in the case of crops like tatties that tend to be harvested all at once, getting the darn things back home. All of these things tend to be cited as reasons for car journeys, and that’s very understandable in the face of the lack of any alternative.
But now there is an alternative, right here in Tayport!
Yes, now we have our very own electrically assisted Winther Cargo Trike, and just in case that isn’t enough, we’ve added a trailer to take a bit more on board. The trike itself is rated for 100 kilos and the trailer for 20, so it’s capable of shifting a lot of merchandise, up to and beyond that bag of compost. The electric assistance is invaluable in starting it with a heavy load on board and for moving it up hills. It cuts out automatically when the trike reaches 15mph, and this means it is not legally a motor vehicle and the operator does not need a license.
On Monday 8 February Dave and I picked it up from Electric Bikes Scotland at Dundee University. EBS worked closely with us on specifying the best machine for our needs and then were very patient while the wheels of bureaucracy turned before we could make payment and take delivery. Dave and I decided to start as we meant to go on by riding over to Dundee on our Brompton folding bikes so that we could put one of them in the hold of the trike to ride back. After a briefing from Daniel of EBS and a few trial runs in the quiet space outside the shop, we were ready to make the journey.
Somehow it was my Brompton that had folded itself up and hitched a ride on the trike, so I got first shot at riding the Behemoth. I have to say I would have preferred to have more time to practise on quiet roads before launching into the traffic of Dundee, but the machine has so much presence on the road that I really didn’t feel intimidated by passing vehicles. And with the power assist on moderate I was able to keep up a steady speed just slightly slower than I would on a solo bike. What did take some getting used to, though, was the handling. Unlike a two-wheeler, the trike corners when the rider turns the handlebars, and when the rider does that, the whole front end, including the cargo, swings round. The instinct of anybody used to riding a two-wheeler is then to lean into the direction of the turn, but with three wheels you can’t do that, which leads to the very disconcerting sensation that the trike is going in one direction while you’re going in another. It’s an illusion, of course, but my cyclist’s sense of balance took a lot of convincing.
We got the trike to the north end of the road bridge, where we had to uncouple the trailer, as trike plus trailer were too long to go in the lift. That was fiddly, but not difficult, but then the real trial came: getting it through the narrow gap where the walkway passes the stairs. I had been there with a ruler a few days before and had calculated that the trike ought to go through with a clearance of somewhere between a centimetre and an inch on either side. I’ve often found that when something seems to be possible in theory, it’s only because some vital aspect of the practice has been left out of account, so I was worried about whether those clearances would actually exist; Dundee to Tayport is a long way when you cycle via Perth! Judge for yourselves:
After that, it was Dave’s turn to ride the trike, and that’s what he did, wondering all the way across the bridge what he would do if he met another one coming the other way! From the bridge, we returned to Tayport via the road, as the trike would not have been able to negotiate the narrow gaps and chicanes of the cycle path. When we arrived at the harbour, our reception committee poured out of the Café to welcome us.
With Dave in command, the Plantmobile has accomplished its first heavy haulage assignment – delivering the concrete blocks for support of the shipping container which is to become our Community Garden shed.
Watch this space for further adventures of the Plantmobile, together with details of how you can learn to pilot it.