In Dutch inner-cities ‘cargo bikes’ have become a popular modes of transport for urban families. This popularity seems to be associated with the class-based transformation of the urban space (gentrification), and particularly to the growth in numbers of urban middle class families, a phenomenon labelled ‘family gentrification’. In public discourse the cargo bike has become the symbol of these urban middle class families and is often used as a marker of gentrification.
Based on a combination of qualitative, quantitative and spatial analysis it demonstrates that the symbolic meaning of a cargo bike is related to its properties as an object - a status symbol not dissimilar from luxury cars- and also to the practice of urban cycling, as a specific embodied form of time-space behaviour. Cargo-bike drivers are portrayed as ‘yuppies’ or ‘elitist’ which is related to the class position but they are also often described in terms of specific gender roles: cargo-bike mothers are often described as career-focussed mothers who are assertive and self-confident, while cargo-bike dads are portrayed as ‘soft’ and emancipated fathers. These labels attest to the very different expectations and normativities around being a ‘good’ mother or father. The cargo bike is therefore a symbol of the way in which middle-class mothers and fathers challenge and negotiate these dominant norms around parenthood, thereby remaking the city.
This paper has now been published in Social & Cultural Geography (open access).