We love cargo bikes, so a few weeks ago we took a look at why cargo bikes are better than delivery trucks.
After reading the article, one of our readers told us about what is probably the biggest cargo bike in the world: The 8rad which is 5 meters long, 2 meters wide and supported by 8 wheels!
In this interview we talk with the creator of the 8rad, Nico Jungel. We talk with Nico about why he build the 8rad, how he did it and what his next projects are.
How did you decide to build the 8rad?
A real decision wasn’t made, it was more a series of steps that i took one by one. Maybe the decision was taken when I bought 8 high-end wheels for too much money and placed them on the floor in a 5x2m dimension. After that I couldn’t go back.
More generally spoken, the idea of building the bike is a mixture of the way of life I have taken. I once gave up living in flats, bought a van and lived a mobile, nomadic life.
I liked the idea not to have walls and only a few things, but cars cost money, a lot of money, they pollute, are way too heavy in proportion to what they carry and so on.
Coming from some kind of squatting and being involved in ‘right to the city’ movements, I wanted to change something and create a vision. I needed a new mobile space that fits my demands and I was also eager to built something new. I knew that I would need at least 8 square meters and this led me to the fact that I would have to have 8 wheels. 4 wheels would have to be able to steer and so on.
The 8rad is somehow more a chain of solutions, but in the beginning there was an idea of a mobile, pedalpowered space.
Was it difficult to build?
It was sooo difficult. I had never built a bike before and because I had just moved to Berlin, my friends weren’t there to start a group project. I had to gain all the knowledge, but it’s all on the internet and one just has to combine what is there. I don’t know how people did it before the internet.
I also checked every concrete truck I saw and crawled underneeth them. Learning is super easy today and I can just encourage everyone to watch, read and try.
I failed many times and it was obvious that the project was too big for one person, but once I have something in my mind there is no other way (and yes, I spend way too much money on my projects).
As a sidenote, the 8rad could be even bigger. German traffic regulations only speak of ‘vehicle dimension’ which are 12 meters long, 2.5 meters wide and 4 meters high if I remember correctly. And one shouldn’t be too much concerned with laws when inventing new stuff, laws can be changed…
How is it to bike the 8rad?
It’s pretty easy, it moves when you touch the pedals. Most people are surprised once they start pedaling. Of course it needs mirrors and it takes a lot of space, but supplied with an electric motor (solarpowered ONLY!) one can ride it alone.
Because it has independent wheel suspension it’s super-smooth. I never understood why no one else took the decision to use independent wheel suspension, but recently, some projects (4-wheelers) have appeared.
But to be honest, the 8rad is still a prototype. I would like to change and improve many things, so if there’s someone with money or material/parts to spend – please contact me!
How often do you use it?
I don’t use it that much. It’s more an utopic idea, a vision to inspire other people. It’s shown on faires, takes part in demonstrations/parades and other public events. Due to time and money I choose events that reach many people and support it’s transportation vision.
Instead of the almost empty words of clean, safe and silent cities, the 8rad prooves that cities can look different. It proves that a lot of transport can easily be done by bike and that there’s an alternative to cars. If a bike of that size can drive and load (up to 500kg), then it should be obvious that regular cargo bikes can easily replace a lot of car transportations.
Has there been any problems using the 8rad?
There have been technical problems. For example cheap chains that crash too many times because I haven’t got money for good chains.
But people are always happy when they see the bike. I have not met a a single angry car driver being upset that I block the street. I think if you want to change things, you better give a positive suggestion. It’s always possible to do something radical without people noticing it and without getting upset because they like it too much.
You call yourself a traffic activist. What does that mean?
I think there has been written and discussed a lot when it comes to city development. Almost everyone is an expert or at least has an opinion when it comes to gentrification.
I always liked the spaces in between things and so the streets are that kind of space for me. I think there should be more protests about traffic/transportation and air pollution in cities. There are more good solutions when it comes to architecture, but very few when it comes to traffic (except in the Netherlands…).
I want to shift focus so that’s why I use that term.
A common objection to carfree cities is cargo transportion. How would you solve that?
Well, mostly there’s very little cargo in cars. People are always surprised what a cargo bike can carry (or a bicycle trailer – I don’t know why they are not more popular).
Bicycles take way less space and traffic would be much faster than if the deliveries were done by car. Parcels could be delivered faster and just think of how cheap bicycles are compared to cars (both when buying the product AND when doing mantainance).
Technically speaking, there exist very good solutions for cargo bikes on 2, 3 or even 4 wheels. Cargo bikes with load capacities from 80 to 300 kg.
It’s a political question, not a technical one. People are beginning to see the advantages of bicycles and there are more and more cargo bikes around. There are also more cargo bike producers and especially in Germany do I notice a very active atmosphere.
But I don’t think that there’ll be carfree cities. I’m not very fond of absolute positions, but understand that some protest forms need them to underline their demands. I like diversity and think there need to be taken closer looks at what can be done and how it can be done.
I think a really good and well planned public transport system, e.g. fast-lanes for bicycles and seperate car/bike-traffic like in Copenhagen, would improve things a lot.
In berlin the fastest way to get around, even on a 14 km distance, is by bike.
People are also buying less stuff in the shops because they order things on the net, so the need to carry things decreases and the need for improved business-to-consumer delivery increases (there are interesting solutions for that, e.g. in Paris where they bring goods via boat to the center of the city and then cargo bikes pick up parcels from the boat).
From time to time I work as a craftsman, and you can’t imagine the advantages of being able to get tools to the inner city without having to find a parking space and without having to pay for parking.
What will the future bring for you and the 8rad?
I’m converting the 8rad into a mobile studio. I’m an artist and I’m drawing/reflecting on things in my notebooks. I have planned some projects in a direction where I equip the 8rad with electronics and sensors so that it can create images of the sites where I am.
Also the 8rad got some pillars that can be driven out, so it can stand with the wheels off the ground – a bit more of a mobile space which can be moved and less of a big cargo bike.
Right now it also functions as a solar-powerplant for an off-grid coworking workshop, as it has a powerful solar system.