man wearing high-vis top and blue helmet riding white bicycle with bags on either side of the rear carrier and one bucket on top.
Cargo bikes roped in to solve parking woes

Cargo bikes are commonly seen in big cities around the world delivering packages, food, coffee and ferrying young children.

But in Hobart, people are about to seem them around construction sites and tall buildings courtesy of Spidertech industrial rope access specialists.

The company specialises in accessing high and confined spaces using ropes for maintenance, cleaning, repairs, painting, installations and construction.

As the only business in Tasmania accredited by the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association, they work across the state on a wide variety of jobs.

Managing Director Haig Rice decided to buy two electric cargo bikes when he’d had enough of the hassles of trying to find parking spots in Hobart, especially around some of the busy construction sites.

Haig Rice packing the cargo bike

“Parking on our work sites has been increasingly difficult over recent years. With a lot of our work occurring on inner-city high-rise buildings, parking has been a major issue for us,” Haig said.

“Most often we need someone to drop off and pick up staff. It represents at least an hour of someone’s time every day, it’s inefficient for those who are waiting, and it’s a major contributor to the already congested streets in Hobart.

“We did a very rough cost benefit analysis and decided that we would be saving approximately the cost of one bike per year in time taken for someone to perform the daily drop-off and pick-up of the work crew.

“Obviously, if it replaces a motor vehicle the savings go up a lot, not to mention parking fees and parking fines.

“To be honest, we think the real savings come from improving wellness in our work place.

“Starting the working day with a light ride where you can apply a lot of physical exertion, or very little, but always have the wind in your hair; it lifts people’s spirit and focuses the mind. Everyone becomes more productive and happier for it.”

Blokey tradies on construction sites and industrial installations may not be the first people you’d think would accept bicycles for transport, but Haig says the response from contractors and clients has been positive.

Operations Manager Stirling Stumm heads out on a loaded bike.

“Once the jokes are put aside, pretty well everyone I’ve come across expresses some desire to be riding one themselves.

“I think every contractor in Hobart is really fed up with the frustrations of parking and driving through the city. Everyone in Hobart knows that something has to be done about traffic congestion.

Haig is a regular bike rider himself so thinking about using bikes in the workplace was a natural progression for him.

“I have thought that electric bikes would work well in any workplace. I’ve really just been waiting for the technology and right type of bike to come together. I think now is a great time to jump in and use bikes.

“When researching which bike to buy I spoke to various specialist e-bike suppliers and had kept tabs on the industry and what was being offered for some time.

“I went to Melbourne and took a few different cargo electric bikes out for extensive rides. You don’t have to ride far to figure out how fun and practical they are.

The team have rigged up an easy-to-use battery charging stand.

“I ended up preferring the long standard bikes which was just like ‘bike riding 101’, rather than the three wheelers or extra long bases with cargo holds which were more difficult to manoeuvre.

“It seemed that the front-loading bikes required a bit more skill because the wheel way out in front takes a little getting used to. That said, a fully loaded ‘ute’ style (or ‘long-base’ bike) also takes a little getting used to, I’m still a bit undecided about the best style.”

While some business may struggle to get their staff on bikes, the 10 or so Spidertech crew have taken to them with glee. Most of the staff ride bikes in their spare time and are keen to use the bikes to get to their jobs.

The business has developed a standard operating procedure for staff who ride the bikes and an induction for their safe use.

The bikes can carry close to about 185 kilograms with the rear carrier bearing the most weight at 135 kg.

Spidertech’s average load is about 50–60 kilograms with ropes in one bag, harness equipment in another and then extra equipment for window cleaning, maintenance or installation work.

Most of the equipment is already in bags ready to pack on the bike.

With the head office in North Hobart, the average trip to a city site is about 5 km which is easily handled on a loaded e-bike. Haig says more bike lanes of a decent width would make it easier to get around, as would connection of the Argyle and Campbell Street bike lanes.

Haig’s advice to other businesses who may be mulling over single or multiple e-bikes fleet is to “get on with it”.

“Not only do you get a sense of doing something positive for the environment and helping with traffic congestion but best of all, everyone who rides one feels better for it – and that always pays dividends.”

And his advice to Tasmanian bike shops is to be more relaxed about test riding e-bikes. Not many shops carry e-cargo bikes and he approached a few shops who were reluctant to let him go for a lengthy test ride.

He ended up buying the Yuba e-cargo bikes through Teros in Hobart after test riding them in Melbourne and will use Teros to service the bikes.

And the bikes have been such a success more may be added sooner rather than later.

“We all have access to the bikes but given we only have two, there’s a fair bit of missing out. It is already obvious that we will be needing more!”