Doing the heavy lifting: Meet Ian Dobson, Heritage Park Officer at Bradford Council

Thanks to the pedal power of Ian Dobson, the first cargo bike is up and running at Bradford Council, helping to ferry heavy loads around and between the city’s parks.

You might think transporting goods by bike begins and ends with carrying a puncture repair kit and some spare clothing. Perhaps the odd loaf of bread. But beyond the simple world of bike baskets and panniers, an increasing array of dedicated cargo bikes and trailers is emerging on the UK’s streets and cycle paths.  

With some of these bikes capable of carrying loads of more than 200kg, transportation of a wide range of goods by two wheels is becoming a real, and increasingly popular, option. 

Bradford Council brought in a cargo bike for use by the Parks and Countryside Team in 2020. The bike was funded through West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Active Travel (tranche 2) funding, secured from the Department for Transport as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Ian Dobson, Heritage Park Officer at the Council and a keen cyclist, has been putting the bike through its paces around Bradford’s parklands. We spoke to him to find out more… 

I’ve been a keen road cyclist since 2006 and have also been involved in the bike hub at Lister Park since it began, a big part of which is the fleet of adapted bikes we use for disabled cycling sessionsSo I’m quite aware of the range of things you can do with bikes beyond your standard bike, not just from a cargo carrying side. 

I received an email from the Energy & Environment Officer at the council asking for expressions of interestI was quick to respond to say we could use it and I put together a business case stating how we might use it in our team.  

As a Heritage Park Officer my role operates across two of the city’s parks, Lister Park on Manningham Lane and Roberts Park in Saltaire. I help ensure the parks are kept up the required standardmanage restoration of heritage features, such as the cannons in Roberts Park, and promote education and awareness of greenspace within the parks. 

In our business case we highlighted the things we intended to use the bike for, but also that we wanted to have a clean, greenspace environment vehicle for use by our team, and that we could encourage different user groups within the department to use it too. 

 Transport at the ready 

no longer have access to a council motor vehicle and the cargo bike has helped plug this gap. For jobs such as repairing a bench, previously I may have had to wait for a vehicle to become available. Now I no longer have to do that, I can simply put the tools on the bike and off I go.  

The bike is currently stored at Lister Park and eventually we will use it for shuttling things between the two parks, taking advantage of the greenway route on the Canal Road corridor (Bradford Canal Road Cycleway - CityConnect (cyclecityconnect.co.uk) 

Lockdown has meant we haven’t used it as much as wed intended, with the many events we were going to use it for being cancelled. The playscheme work and cycling events delivered by the Youth Service, which is also based at Lister Park, were going to take advantage of the cargo bike too. 

Once we’re able, its the intention to use the bike every day. As a council service we’re trying to reduce the amount of vehicle movements in the parks. Both parks are busy and, particularly in the summer, moving around in a van presents a risk to the public. The cargo bike will allow us to replace many of the vehicle movements, creating a safer environment for park users.  

 The big bike challenge 

When the bike came I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as big, it did dawn on me that I hadn’t ridden a cargo bike beforeI’m quite confident on bikes and have ridden many types but it was still a learning curve and I found it a challenge to rideI’ve since found the key is to not look at the box but look straight ahead!  

I’m now used to it and have ridden it out on the road. Ayou’re quite big, you’re not easily missed. I will be putting some reflective strips on though, for additional visibility. 

The bike is a real crowd pleaser and puts smiles on people’s faces as you ride it around the parkIt’s been a talking point with people wanting to stop and chat about the bike, a bit like having a dog. It’s also a great advertiser, you can start doing what you’re doing and it draws people in to find out more. 

Colleagues have been mainly curious as to what the bike is capable of, but it is being seen as a good thingOnce we return to normal, I expect colleagues will start forming ideas around more uses for the bike. The more people talk about it, the more ideas will snowball, and we might well end up with more cargo bikes within the council. 

See more inspiring stories on walking and cycling schemes that CityConnect has supported - Get inspired - CityConnect (cyclecityconnect.co.uk)