For those who don't know, I have invested £60 in a trailer for my bicycle and as usual, I have been able to turn the mundane (come on, it is) into a learning experience.This is the first of two posts about my trailer experiences - I will write the next one when I have used it for a while and when I have had time to look at some of the physical details in terms of the space needed to move around with a trailer. First, what is "quaxing"? Well, the word came into being as a result of comments made by councillor Dick Quax from Auckland, New Zealand who suggested that nobody would lug their shopping home on the train.
As is with these things and the Internet, they gain a life of their own and so was coined the definition;
Quax, [verb; past: quaxed, present: quaxing] — to shop, in the western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit.
|My new trailer - articulating at the seat stem.|
I first took the trailer out a couple of weeks ago (my first every ride with a trailer) and it was immediately obvious that I had to change my riding style and the limitations of the local cycling infrastructure were thrown into sharper relief. Despite being attached at the seat stem, the trailer turned the bicycle into a mini-articulated vehicle and although I could still manage fairly tight turns, the trailer doesn't quite follow the same line. By that I mean that the rear of the trailer swings out ever so slightly more than the wheels (overhang) and the trailer tracks inside the path of the bicycle (cut-in) - an identical dynamic to that of an articulated lorry. The immediate issue is therefore tight turns where there are also posts to avoid - classic UK cycle track territory! In fact, why have we got tight turns on cycle tracks at all, they are awful for towing a trailer on and that must mean that mobility scooter users have a crap time too,
Ride quality shows up too. The difference between a hand-laid cycle track and machine-laid carriageway is all too apparent with the trailer bouncing along the former. Further evidence (if any where needed) that all cycle tracks should be machine-laid for the comfort of all users. Ramps are another problem. Giving way to each side road is a pain in terms of bumping down and up ramps and this is made so much worse by wretched kerb upstands which are also a nightmare for mobility scooter and wheelchair users as well as those pushing buggies. All together now - "may your kerbs be flush and ramps gentle".
On one of my trailer journeys, I have had to negotiate a staggered Toucan crossing. It is on my usual commute and at the best of times, I do try and time things so I can go around the island (only safe in one direction) to avoid the stagger. I can do the same with the trailer, but when going the other way (where one needs to use the island), I found that having to turn right and then left on the island to the second crossing, I couldn't actually reach the push-button without getting off. Again, a lesson in access for all.
|The combination is of course longer than the bike itself!|
|Door to door service with a biycle and trailer!|
I have enjoyed my first few weeks of advanced quaxing and when looking at it financially, I have so far made 8 trips (i.e. in a single direction). This is 8 trips of under 2 miles avoided by car, but which would not be possible on foot. I could have used the bus (at £1.50 per journey - £12 so far), but I would be subject to a timetable and the bicycle is proper door to door stuff, including being able to park next to the cricket pitch! So, the point to leave you with this week is had the places I cycled with the trailer been properly designed for all, then my trailer exploits would have been second nature and this is another great example of the "beyond the bicycle" concept of inclusivity.
For further insights into cargo cycling, then this blog by Krister Isaksson is well worth a read. Thanks to Dmitri Fedortchenko of Move By Bike for the link.