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Bicycle Commuting

“Vie Bikes” Looks to Make Cargo Biking Accessible for SF Families

Photo: Vie Bikes
Photo: Vie Bikes

More San Francisco parents are discovering that cargo bikes are the new family minivan. But while it's increasingly common in SF to spot a parent pedaling their helmeted offspring around, cargo bikes and motorized bikes remain off the radar of most families looking for better ways to get around the city.

In leading bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cargo bikes are no secret -- they're ubiquitous. Now, utilitarian biking in SF could get a leg up with the impending public launch of Vie Bikes, a company that will let families test out cargo bikes and bikes with electric motors.

Vie is currently testing out its services before the big public reveal next month, providing access to family-friendly bikes without the expense and hassle of having them shipped overseas. Vie staff will also offer consultation and maintenance services to customers.

"We're trying to knock down barriers," said Kit Hodge, one of Vie's three co-founders, who was previously the SF Bicycle Coalition's deputy director.

Vie will deliver bikes to the customer's door and offer on-street consultation on how to use the bikes. The bikes can also be rented for trial periods, and the company will accept trade-ins for "when your life changes."

Photo: Vie Bikes
Photo: Vie Bikes
Photo: Vie Bikes

The consultation services will include everything from advice on how to convince your skeptical partner to an online map of "Family Routes" laying out the network of streets that feel safe and comfortable for most parents and their kids. As the founders noted in a blog post, those streets don't always match up with the official bike routes:

Maybe you saw that there was a marked bike route on Masonic Avenue or 5th Street and gave it a try, only to pull off as soon as possible because it was extremely uncomfortable. There’s no way that you want to take your kids on those kinds of streets, so how do you know where it actually feels comfortable to bike with your kids?

Vie's map marks just about every avenue on the west side, while the eastern neighborhoods offer fewer calm, bike-friendly routes.

As far as Hodge knows, Vie may be the first company of its kind, at least in the U.S. The company is currently in a "private beta launch" period, testing out their services with a handful of clients, but plans to launch to the public sometime in April. The company won't have a storefront, providing services at the customer's doorstep.

Ultimately, Hodge hopes to spark a cultural shift as more parents' eyes are opened to a fun, healthier, and more affordable alternative to buckling kids up in the backseat. She said she regularly encounters curious parents -- in cars, on bikes, and on foot -- with questions about her cargo bike.

The cargo bike market certainly has room to expand in SF. "People don't even know what to call them," she said.

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