ORLA Burke was pregnant with her second child when she realised she “couldn’t face dragging two small children around the streets of Cork city.”
The mum of two girls, Réaltín, aged one, and Eliana aged four and a half, is originally from Dublin but has been resident in Cork for 15 years and settled in the city’s South Parish.
She lives with arthritis associated with ulcerative colitis but doesn’t drive and says that “pushing a buggy around the city was killing me” due to poor pedestrian infrastructure and frequently uneven footpaths.
Having campaigned for several years with Pedestrian Cork to make the city’s streets more accessible for all ages and abilities, Orla knew that pushing a baby in a buggy with a toddler in tow wasn’t going to be feasible.
She had always been a ‘utility cyclist’ prior to having kids and would religiously use her bike to cycle to work and social activities, but was nervous about cycling with a child on the back due to concerns about losing her balance. She figured, however, it would be easier to cycle with two children than have one on foot and one in a buggy, so she started to look at alternative bike options.
“I researched and researched until I came across a-cargo bikes for hauling kids and my mind was blown. This made much more sense to me than driving a car in the city. It would have taken around 18 months to get my licence anyway, never mind the expense, so I decided to take an e-cargo bike out on trial,” said Orla.
Her first choice was a three-wheel cargo bike because she thought they looked more balanced but she sought advice from other e-cargo bike users before making a purchase.
“I put up a little video on Twitter asking other cyclists if they could give me some advice and the Cork cargo bike cyclists all recommended two-wheeler bikes, based on their real life experiences cycling in Cork city.
“Cork isn’t really set up for three-wheeled bikes because you need to transition up and down onto different surfaces, so the two-wheeled bikes are actually better for that. People tend to think they look unsteady and unbalanced but once you’re going, it’s unreal, it’s like driving a big articulated truck, you’ve loads of balance!” she said.
Orla was sold on the idea of the two-wheeled e-cargo bike and made her purchase using the Bike To Work Scheme when she was seven months pregnant. At that stage of pregnancy, she found e-biking easier than walking and said: “I cycled until four hours before I went into labour and was back on the bike again six weeks later.”
The baby joined her on the bike within a few weeks and Orla says her life and that of her family’s has been transformed since she converted to e-biking just over a year ago.
So what is it about the e-cargo bike that she most likes?
“First of all, my bike gave me back my freedom. Before I had the electric cargo bicycle, my world had become really narrow. Now, the bike allows me to travel around and see all of the city. It gives me a much broader, panoramic perspective of where I live and my surroundings. I can go wherever I want, so I might choose to go to Passage West or Fitzgerald’s Park and I don’t have to worry about hills if I want to go to St Luke’s.
“And the kids love it. Every day is an adventure for us when we go out on our bike. You’re much more in touch with the world around you when you cycle. You can stop anywhere you like and the kids observe the world around them much more closely from the bike than the car.
“It’s definitely an interesting way to travel and it’s fun too. When the bike is parked up, the kids will sit in it, and when it’s stored in the hall in the house, they rub it and talk to it!
“There’s no problem getting them to go somewhere in it either; they’re jumping into the bike 10 minutes before it’s time to go and I have to get them out to go to the toilet before we leave the house!”
With regard to costs, Orla says an e-cargo bike is a “really good option” for families with two cars who are thinking about scaling back to one vehicle. “Price wise, it’s a massive saving. An e-cargo bike will cost anything between €1,500 to €5,500 to buy but I’ve had no maintenance or costs other than a standard service of €50 or so in over a year. It’s a more environmentally friendly way to travel, there’s no stress, no hassle and it’s really enjoyable,” she said.
To find out more about their stories, visit we-bike.ie.