The Atlantic

‘Cargo-Bike Moms’ Are Gentrifying the Netherlands

In Rotterdam, the bakfiets utility bike has become a symbol—and a tool—of urban displacement.
Source: Jasper Juinen / Getty

In the Netherlands, it’s hard not to be impressed, or even overwhelmed, by the sheer number of bicycles in all forms, colors, and sizes. People here see cycling as a normal mode of transportation, not just a weekend leisure activity. The Dutch use their bikes to carry groceries, electronics, and sometimes even furniture. It’s not uncommon to see a parent biking with one child up front, another one in the back, and a third one cycling on his or her own, the parent’s hand on the back for guidance.

But for the Dutch, the bicycle is more than just a mode of transportation; it is also a status symbol. And nowhere is this more visible than in the case of the bakfiets—Dutch for “cargo bike” (literally, “box bike”). According to a recent study, this mode of transport has become particularly popular among highly educated, urban, two-income families.

It hasn’t always been this way. Before cars and cargo trucks were was associated with poverty because they were cheaper than cars. But now, cargo bikes are seen as a sign of upward socioeconomic aspiration in Dutch cities—along with the gentrification that accompanies it.

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