Order a Domino’s pizza in Portland, Ore., and chances are it will arrive by bicycle. The Portland Mercury newspaper is delivered that way, too, and the local Splendid Cycles — which specializes in cargo bikes — is expanding.

Now, admittedly, Portland is ground zero for cargo bikes — parodied on "Portlandia" and everything. But moving kids, pizzas and even entire households with pedal power is catching on big time in the U.S. Cargo bikes are “the new station wagon,” says the Wall Street Journal. It’s not just Amsterdam and Copenhagen anymore — biking is having a renaissance, and it’s going beyond Sunday recreation.

Jim Motavalli on a carbo bike

The author investigates a Belgian Ecopostale van at the International Transport Forum. (Photo: Randy Rzewnicki)

That’s where Marin County, California’s Liz Canning comes in. She’s making a documentary called "Less Car More Go," and both crowd-sourcing video for it and raising money through a Kickstarter campaign. She wants a modest $40,000, and already has $23,000.

Liz Canning and cargo — her kids.

Liz Canning and cargo — her kids. (Photo: Miguel Farias)

“I always loved riding my bike,” Canning said, “but it got so I couldn’t pull my twins in our double trailer—the hill to our house was too steep. So when I put on an electric-assist hub motor, even though I was already a fit cyclist who commuted into San Francisco, it changed my life. Now there was no reason not to take the bike everywhere.” 

Bike with a wheelbarrow in front

You can watch the trailer for "Less Car More Go" here:

In part because most of her “co-directors” sent in footage of them ferrying their kids around, the trailer concentrates on that, but Canning agrees that cargo bikes can work for a living. She said the finished film will have pedicabs, bicycle messengers, food delivery and, yes, pizza guys. “It would be great if a big company, like Whole Foods, launched a large fleet of electric cargo bikes,” Canning said. “We need something on that scale.” 

Less Car More Go

DHL's courier services are often bike-mounted in Europe. (Photo courtesy of "Less Car More Go")

Cargo bikes have reached scale in Europe. For instance, DHL Netherlands, which does parcel delivery, replaced 33 trucks with cargo bikes, saving 152 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Arne Melse of DHL says that 10 percent of the company’s vehicles are bikes. “From our pilots in four EU countries, we see that it is indeed possible to deliver by cycle.” There are already 2,000 to 3,000 cargo bikes in London, and importer Andrea Casalotti estimates that sales will be up 20 percent this year. Ecopostale is using bike vans to deliver the mail in Belgium (see photo above). UPS is testing pedal-power delivery vans in Germany.

According to Dr. Randy Rzewnicki, a transplanted Bostonian who now works for Europe-based CycleLogistics, “It is boom time for cargo bikes. Up to 70 percent of delivery costs are in the last mile, and [these bikes] can save money and increase efficiency. It’s a credible solution for young businesses.”

Canning is a longtime film editor, and "Less Car More Go" will be her first film as a director. She has modest goals of maybe being able to hire an assistant, pay for music rights, do a little promotion. Judging from the trailer, her editor’s instincts will lead to a sharply paced film.

OK, it’s not professional video, but you have to watch this — local cyclists band together to move an entire apartment. And it looks like they’re having loads of fun doing it.

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Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Cargo bikes: The new way to move kids, stuff and pizza
Portland, Ore., is ground zero, but working bicycles are catching on everywhere for people who want to leave their car in the garage.