*This blog post was written by Manal Massalha, to read her full blog post see: https://www.manalmassalha.com/#/cycling-to-dorset/
It was on a Hackney Playbus session that I chanced upon a Carryme Bikes Mobile Library. I previously came across them through a poster I saw in one of the children centres/activities, and all I could remember is that they try to encourage families to get into cycling. At first I thought to myself, “why would I approach them?! I’m already a cyclist, and so are my children (both under six), and we already have two child bike seats.” But I soon realised I was wrong. It turned out Carryme Bikes, a Community Interest Company (CIC), lends out all kind of bicycles and accessories that a cycling family might need.
Within less than five minutes of chatting to them I was offered a trailer to try for a month, for free. I couldn’t think of a better time to have such an offer. It was mid-July and school holidays were fast approaching. I had already booked my two sons for swimming lessons, but was worried about how to shuttle them around without getting them exhausted by cycling their bikes to and from the pool, swimming, and having fun playing in parks and adventure playgrounds. The trailer came in handy. Having it meant that we were more mobile and our playtime was maximised.
Equally exciting, if not more relieving, was the possibility of borrowing a cargo bike for our camping trip in Dorset, booked for the end of July. As keen cyclists and big believers in public transport, both my partner and I didn’t want to hire a car and wished we could afford to buy a cargo bike. A good cargo bike can cost a fortune! Again, planets aligned! After trying the trailer on my bike and seeing the thrill in my three-year-old’s eyes, I came back to the stall to continue the conversation with Alix and Richard from Carryme Bikes. Alix told me about the Hackney Family Cycling Library, an exciting project co-run with Hackney London Cycling Campaign and funded by Transport for London’s Cycling Grants London scheme, and mentioned that they lend out cargo bikes for a week. I couldn’t hold my excitement. I immediately said I would love to borrow one for our camping trip. At first Alix wasn’t sure about me taking the bike on the train all the way to Dorset. But with a little-thought, she got excited and suggested a potential cargo bike from her fleet. Her choice was Urban Shorty (about £3,700), which could possibly fit on the train, has a big storage capacity, is powered by a Bosch battery, and can take a rear-bike seat. Two-days before we set off I went to collect the cargo bike.
Having sorted our transport, we were still nervous about the train and whether we would be able to fit both the cargo bike and the trailer on the train. Phoning the railway customer service wasn’t much help. Taking no chance, my partner thought he should try it out himself. So a day before we set off, he cycled the Urban Shorty all the way to Waterloo. The bike fitted just about.
And the rest is history! It was thanks to Carryme Bikes that we all had a memorable summer in Dorset. The weather was amazing and hot all week long, the company was great, and the scenery was breath-taking. The children had the time of their lives running about, feeling free and connected to nature and friends.
We felt proud that we could just put the kids on the bike seats, load all of our camping gear on the cargo bike and the trailer, cycle off through central London, and the rolling hills of Dorset, and have an affordable holiday with minimum damage to the environment.