Anthony Carfang was a Chicago bike racer for years. Nowadays, he’s focusing on how bikes as transportation can do good in the world, from climate change to social equity to happiness and building community. With his Riese & Muller Load 75 e-cargo bike, he and his family are spending even more time riding and encouraging their neighbors in Oklahoma City to join them.
How has your perspective on ebikes evolved?
Initially, my “racers” perspective on ebikes was hesitant. But I have a heart condition, and I know others who have medical conditions for whom the assist is essential. So I didn’t stick in the “ebikes are cheating” camp for long. As an enabler to help people choose something other than a car for short trips or overcome physical limitations or health challenges, ebikes are transformational.
What prompted you to get an ebike?
When my wife and I found out we were pregnant, we wondered how to maintain our biking lifestyle. We also have a 65-pound bulldog, and towing him in a trailer was a workout. An e-cargo bike makes it as easy as possible to rely on the bike instead of a car. We just default to travel by bike and not make excuses.
Why did you choose Riese & Muller?
Most of the roads in our area are not in great condition, so I was drawn to full-suspension for as much comfort as possible for my daughter. When I test rode the Load, the first words out of my mouth were “stupidly fun.” The quality is worth it. My wife still rides her regular bike, but if she got an ebike, we’d get rid of our second car, which would save us $600 a year on insurance and around another $300 a year on gas, so it pays for itself in 2-3 years.
How has this bike surprised you?
When you go through neighborhoods on a bike, you are a person, not some windshield screaming down the road. It’s always been easy to smile at people, and people smile back or wave. The front-loading cargo bike turns more heads and strikes up conversations, especially when they see a dog or my daughter in the cargo bike. People who have never considered biking fun see this and shout, “I need one of those!” That inspires me to ride it even more.
The biggest benefit is my mental health and better quality time with my daughter. Before, she would sit in her seat in the back of the car and stare at the sky while I was in the front seat unable to see or interact with her. I didn’t realize how depressed I was until I got the cargo bike. Now she’s in front of me, I can talk with her, I can see her looking out at the world, and she can observe a lot more. It’s much better quality time, and she loves it.
What can people do to help make biking easier for everyone?
Round up some neighbors and ride just a few miles to ice cream or a coffee shop. A “5-mile ride” can sound like a lot to people new to riding, but riding “fifteen minutes to the ice cream shop” instead of driving can open people’s eyes to what’s possible. From a broader perspective, people on City Council, committees, or legislature are just people and want to improve life for their constituents. They need and want to understand what’s important to you; so call them up and express your interest in more bike racks and safer streets for people of all ages.