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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Save the Mailstar


The Pashley Mailstar is an instantly recognisable British institution.  It is no Yuba Mundo or Madsen Bucket Bike but it has a respectable capacity for mail.  Few know it by name but everyone will recognise the bike in the picture above, used for decades by the Royal Mail for local deliveries.  It offers several obvious advantages over thing such as trolleys (only move at walking speed), walking alone (slower, lower load capacity) and motorised transport (a whole array of environmental, cost and social problems).  It even offers a further advantage; healthier workers take fewer sick days.  But now the Mailstar is under threat from the management.  Their motivations are unclear; the blanket “health and safety concerns” excuse has been trotted out but anyone who rides knows it must be covering up some other internal political reason.  Perhaps Royal Mail has been offered a deal for cheap vans from an automotive manufacturer and ditching the iconic bikes is part of the deal, perhaps the pension pot is being stretched too thin for the management’s taste by the extended life-spans of the former cycle-posties. 

Most companies would (or should) be considering moving towards a sustainable, bicycle-based alternative to their transport needs where possible.  It strikes me as odd that Royal Mail would move away from this established infrastructure they already have at a time when transport sustainability is increasingly important to us all.  If there is a save the Mailstar campaign, count me in, I think the public would not like to see these icons disappear and by raising awareness (for example by whingeing about it in a blog) maybe we can save them before it is too late.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I love my Yuba Mundo.  It has been more useful than I expected it would be.  Shopping is a breeze and I no longer have to pass on those bulk discounts or car-oriented larger products.  Towing a bike has been a much more regular use of the Yuba than I anticipated and is a good way to pick up friends from the city centre.  Carrying people is also fun and surprisingly easy, providing you do not mind going a bit slower than usual and I expect that people with children will find riding with them on the back quite easy.

The longest heavy duty ride I have done was to IKEA in Ashton.  IKEA is one of those places which is designed around the car-culture and I was pleasantly surprised to find bike parking (Although it had no road access).  I bought a pair of Billy bookcases and added them to my two pannier bags of supplies making a load in excess of 50 kg.  The ride home was surprisingly enjoyable, the bike handled well under load, the uphills were manageable and the downhills were incredible.  I think I got from Ashton centre to Manchester Piccadilly station in around 15 minutes.

I have done a fairly long (50 km) ride on the Yuba with a lighter load, to Oldham and then Rochdale and then back along the Rochdale canal.  It is quite crap between Failsworth and Manchester so we took the road for that section, but the rest of the route is enjoyable, even as far as Hebden Bridge and beyond.

The most unexpected ability the Yuba has is to grant the owner a kind of infamy.  I have been asked by acquaintances, co-workers and even completely random people if I am the guy with the giant orange bike.  It is quite cool in a way but hopefully the effect will die off if the cargo bike concept catches on with a few more people.