If you fancy exploring London with your four-legged friend in a different fashion, there is an option that you should consider: taking your dog for a ride on a dog-friendly cargo bike in London! We found a dog-friendly place were you can hire the perfect one for the purpose, and went on a dog adventure to test it and tell you all about it.
Exploring with a Dog-friendly Cargo Bike in London
One thing that I had on my bucket list even before Argo arrived in our life was taking a dog for a ride on a cargo bike (my parent’s dog at the time, but any dog, really!). This year I finally got on to the task and found a cargo bike hire in East London that welcomes dogs. It is called CarryMe Bikes, and is located in Hackney, not far from the river Lee.
CarryMe Bikes is a community interest company that was founded in 2012 by Alix Stredwick, a bike enthusiast working in transport policy since 1999, “pushing for more sustainable, healthy forms of travel”, as she says. CarryMe Bikes is involved in a number of community projects and gives back to the local community. She started it as a part-time project, but in the last couple of years it became her full-time activity.
Alix explained that, so far, CarryMe Bikes has very sporadically seen people with dogs hiring their cargo bikes, and those few times they were families with children, who also happened to have a dog. She added that they were mostly small or medium-sized dogs, apart from one that was large, and that they all took the Bakfiets or the Nihola Family models.
She was so kind to invite us for a ride last weekend and Humphrey and Hattie, the Wired Fox Terriers, with their dad(s) Philip (and Gil) came along to help on this dog adventure!
Our dog adventure with a dog-friendly cargo bike in East London
CarryMe Bikes is not only a rental. It also sells both the bikes they rent out and new ones, so their fleet is in constant evolution. In particular, last Saturday morning, a Bakfiets Cargotrike was available for our adventure. This black and wooden three-wheeled good-sized beast, with two wheels at the front, on the side of a sturdy wooden box, and two foldable bench seats (with four seatbelts/safety straps), was of the perfect size to carry our two canine companions.
According to the plan, Humphrey and Hattie would have travelled together in the cargo box, with Philip driving and myself following on a foldable bike (also kindly provided by CarryMe Bikes).
When we arrived, Alix briefed us about how to drive the cargo bike, warning that it could take a bit to get used to it, also depending on previous experience. Her advice was to take corners at a very slow speed and be mindful when turning, counterbalancing the weight of the box with the person’s weight, while sitting straight on the bike and staying relaxed.
Philip and Gil had been very mindful and brought two dog pillows and a blanket to fit in the box, in order to ensure that Humphrey and Hattie’s riding experience was extra comfortable. We then started to look at the best way to secure Humphrey and Hattie in the box. They both wore their harnesses, so we were able to shorten the seatbelts and secure their leads to them, tight enough so they would not be slack, avoiding the risk of our furry friends jumping out.
The Bakfiets also came with a rain cover, but Philip and Gil were confident that Humphrey and Hattie would have been fine without that extra layer, so we took it off and carried it with us in the cargo box, just in case.
Before leaving, Philip did a test drive around the block to become acquainted with the Bakfiets. His first feedback was that he didn’t feel too confident on it, since it felt a bit heavy, and was challenging especially when turning. He was also concerned when passing on speed bumps. On their side, Humphrey and Hattie, who participated to the test drive too, were very quiet and seemed extremely at ease on that new transportation device.
We decided that we would have driven directly to the river to keep on quieter safe paths and we were all set to go around 11.30am, planning to be back at 2pm.
Our ride along the river Lee and Hackney Marshes
The weather forecast for the day was not the best ever – cloudy with chances of rain showers -, so the original idea of organising a picnic was left aside and we headed off for a normal ride.
From the hire point it is just few minutes to the River Lee (probably about 5) and there are signs on the road pointing to a ‘Quiet Route’ for bicycles. It was easy to follow it (basically we just had to go always almost straight to reach our first destination). We went slow down the hill, with Hattie and Humphrey looking around from their privileged observation point, and they didn’t try to jump out when they saw a dog on the footpath, which was already a good thing.
When we reached the river, we didn’t cross the first bridge we found, just because there was a sign indicating restricted access on the main bridge, while the pedestrian part was a bit tricky to get on with the cargo bike because of some trash bins in the way. For this reason, we decided to ride north on the West side of the river until we reached a second bridge (at Daubeney Fields). This time we crossed it and turned South on the Capital Ring. Home boats, water, bushes, trees and paths leading to Hackney Marshes were the landscape of our ride, and of course, two quiet dogs leading on the front!
I was very impressed especially by Hattie, who put her paws on the box and rode standing on them, as to enjoy it the most. We stopped after a bit to let them off to sniff around and have a good run (and a play with a ball). For the rest of the trip we alternated stretches with them running along our bikes (we were not speeding obviously), to get some good exercise, and stretches where they would ride in the cargo bike. Philip explained that he normally gives them a good 3-4 hours of exercise a day to wear out their energies!
On the path, we encountered the development Here East’s Canalside, which hosts cafes and other places where you can have a brunch and a drink. There were a few dogs around and we had a coffee to go at Shane’s on Canalside, which is dog-friendly (and also hosts monthly doggie days!). There Hattie and Humphrey could have a drink, before heading to Hackney Marshes for another dog run.
Apart from Humphrey’s idea to roll in fox poo in the bushes, adding a fragrance to the adventure, we had just a little other incident towards the end of our adventure, with Hattie. Due to Hattie’s intolerance to her harness, during our adventure Philip had taken it off; when we stopped in Hackney Marshes for a last run before getting back, her leash had become a bit slack and Hattie impatiently tried to jumped off the bike almost hanging herself. Luckily Philip was there to catch her, and nothing bad happened, but good to keep in mind this risk and I’ll tell you more about some safety tips below in the post.
Philip’s feedback on our way back was that it takes time to get used to driving the cargobike and is probably the more you ride the more confidence you gain. I gave the cargotrike a brief try when at the marshes and I must agree with him: turning the bike is not too intuitive if you haven’t done it before and definitely needs practicing!
Luckily we were spared the rain and a few sun rays made their way through the clouds as we were on our way back, and it was not bad to ride with that temperature and sky. Nonetheless, I imagine that the best day for a dog ride would be a sunny one, if it is not too hot.