Wednesday October 3, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Dave Cohen likes them because they have room to store groceries, but don’t guzzle gas like a pickup truck, a spot for children to sit on their way to soccer practice, without the cumbersome size of an SUV or minivan, and offer a smooth ride, minus the expense of an Italian sports car.

They are cargo bicycles. And, after some persuading by Cohen, some are now available at Burrows Specialized Sports at 105 Main St.

Cohen is an eco-therapist who has worked as an environmental entrepreneur, educator and activist. Robert "Woody" Woodworth, the shop’s owner, said Cohen’s experience and knowledge of Earth-friendly transportation convinced him to start dealing Yuba special-utility bicycles. He now has four in stock, they include the Mundo, the elMundo (an electric-assist bike) and the Boda Boda. They sell for around $2,600.

"Dave did a lot of research and knows a lot about cargo bikes," he said. "So I talked to some manufacturers and we decided we would give it a whirl. ... There is a niche there for people who want to save trips in their car or are looking to get rid of a second car."

Woodworth said the nearest other dealers of cargo bikes are in Boston and Burlington -- both at least two hours away.

"We kind of fit in, geographically," he said.

Cohen delivered a talk (hosted by Brattleboro Citizen Breakfast) at the Gibson-Aiken Center last Friday and spoke for 30 minutes about how special-utility bikes work and why they are important. The talk was followed by 10 to 15 minutes of questions, mostly about safety, from the audience. He said he was well-received.

He also demonstrated his family’s new elMundo bike, which is designed for carrying children and cargo.

"We are a car state," Cohen told the Reformer, adding he would love to develop a stronger bicycle culture in Vermont. "These bikes are starting a conversation about how we interact with our landscapes. ... Nothing has altered our landscape more than the car."

The new line of Yuba utility bikes, designed for carrying children and cargo, and Cohen will be present for viewing at Gallery Walk at 7 p.m. on Friday.

He said the material used to make one SUV could craft 150 elMundos. He said they help reduce one’s carbon footprint and are a lot of fun to ride.

Woodworth said he rode a Mundo to Fort Dummer State Park and noticed "they’re not that heavy, considering the bikes’ size."

Cohen said New England, in this regard, is behind the curve compared to the West Coast. He cited Portland, Ore., as the epicenter of cargo bike enthusiasts.

He said the great thing about the elMundo is its ability to harness the human body’s power and efficiency to aid the rider along with a with quiet, state-of-the-art front hub motor. Each recharge costs approximately 5 cents, he said.

Cohen founded Pedal Express, a human-powered delivery service responsible for hauling van-sized loads on specially-designed bicycles, in Berkeley, Calif., in the 1990s. Since then he has conducted presentations on transportation and ecological issues in schools and at organizations, institutions and conferences in the United States, Canada and Europe. He moved to Vermont with his family five years ago from the San Francisco Bay area and began studying ecopsychology. He now works as a psychotherapist and tries to blend body-oriented and cognitive therapies.

Cohen, who owns a car but tries to limit his use of it, said he enjoys ecopsychology because it involves the environment and entire communities, not just individual patients.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.