For the past two weekends I’ve been chopping, grinding, welding, and drill a broken foundry cart to make a bike trailer! Since I don’t have a car, it is hard for me to get some of the basic art supplies, like plywood and concrete. The bike trailer opens up a whole new world of possibilities, one of which includes bringing Cracker the Cat to my studio.


First batch of plywood, locked and loaded.

Painted and Bedded.

I got the plans for the trailer from Pedal People. They have a strong emphasis on community building through bike cart design, a rather unique combo. The idea is that few people would be using a trailer every time they used their bike, so why not own one cooperatively? Aaron explains it much better on his site:

the political side of bike carts

i’ve been designing carts that people can build in their communities for a low cost, with only basic fabrication skills and access to common tools. building and using carts can help facilitate a process of local community development. some folks extend that farther by starting community cart programs, in which a lot of people can use a few carts/bikes. the carts are built from metal conduit tubing and are brazed together using an oxy-acetylene torch. they take from 5 hours to 12 hours to make, depending on your familiarity with the fabrication techniques. they cost about $30 to build if you use new parts and salvaged wheels.

car independence: we need to become independent from using our automobiles, for many reasons. cars are a problem because they support global industrial capitalism and the outsourcing of manufacturing to the people who are hurt the worst by industrialism. they also support militarization of oil-rich areas of the world for access to cheap energy. our use of cars releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and burns dirty fuel in inefficient engines where the combustion byproducts poison humans, other organisms, and the land. additionally, the automobile paradigm takes us out of small centralized communities where we could work, live, and play, and spreads us out to the far reaches of sprawling development where we use our cars to go everywhere and isolate ourselves from our neighbors, local small businesses, and family.

why bike carts? too often people complain that they would ride a bike except they can’t carry what they need for work, that they can’t bring their children, that they have to pick up a bag of potting soil that they couldn’t possibly fit on their bike with the groceries…sound familiar? bike carts are a great solution, but most are expensive (for a cart that can haul 200 pounds, $300 to $500 USD). this cart weighs 30 pounds, costs $30 to build, and will carry more weight more securely than many commercial bike carts. it might even be able to carry larger items (like sofas or plywood, for example) than a car can carry. so this is a project about making bike carts, but it’s also about finding a way to gain independence from our cars, build community by fabricating, playing, and biking together. reclaim transportation technology and empower ourselves by taking technology choices and development back into our own hands.

the dominant car-based transport paradigm teaches us that to get around, we need to spend lots of money to buy something which is environmentally damaging. it teaches us that when something breaks, we need to take it into a shop, send away for parts, and pay lots of money, and eventually start all over again with a new car. you can’t build them, fix them very easily, grow fuel for them (for the most part: read on ethanol and biodiesel), or use their parts after you’re done with them in their original form.

if we question cars, we learn that we can lessen our impact by buying a less-bad car (small car, hybrid, grease, biodiesel), and that less-bad is a fine way to be. make that choice for yourself.

one less car

make it two?

So for the community part of my cart I held a not-quite-successful workshop last sunday on bike cart construction, and I’m going to put my email address on the cart so people who see it can ask me about using it for the day. We’ll see how it goes.

In case you’re wondering, The cart cost me about twenty bucks to make. All the metal is from a broken dolly, I got the wheels at Bike Saviours for $10.00, I needed an inner tube that was $5.96, and some metric nuts and washers cost $3.83. I also found the plywood and a friend donated the spray paint. Hooray for recycling.

A note: Pedal People recommend using electric conduit piping to build a cart, I do not. It is flimsy, often galvanized (poisonous to weld), and cylindrical. If you can, get square tubing instead; it is stronger and much easier to work with, think butt and miter joints. My hitch is a little different, too. On the cart arm there’s just a u-bolt, and on my bike there’s a 880lb test carabiner welded to a metal plate. My cart is also a little bigger; the bed size is 24″ x 24″, with the capacity of carrying sheets 24″ x 48″.

Now go make a cart!