27 | Feb | 15

Richard Johnson

Cycle To Work?

The hugely influential street food movement, that’s all about democratising good food, and getting it out to the people, doesn’t have to be served out of “food trucks”. What about trailers? Or tuktuks? We’ve seen soup kitchens carried on “don ganhs” (yokes, with baskets at each end of wooden poles) – and barges/gondolas get the job done with a real sense of style. But our current favourite? Bikes.

British Street Food Awards finalist Square Root started selling fresh ginger beer at their local farmers’ market in Harringay from a 1920’s tricycle called Elsie. Chai Guy got his inspiration from India, “where they dish chai out from dented urns, strapped to the back of wonky old bicycles on dusty street corners”. When he couldn’t find a proper cup of the stuff in Blighty he saw an opportunity.

He decided to start dishing out his own chai. From a shiny gold tricycle named Hyacinth that once ferried people through the humid streets of Jakarta. Ornately handmade and decades old, with a serious weight problem (100kg+) and little in the way of brakes, she’s not the ideal first choice for a street food/drink trader in Bristol.

For a start, Bristol’s not the flattest city in the UK. “Hence my now rugby-player-esque thighs” says Chai Guy. Then there’s the complete lack of space on a bike, which requires some very creative display ideas. “And of course you spend most of your day exposed to our not-so-Indian climate. I’ve so far managed to name 16 different types of rain.”

But it’s a tiny price to pay for the opportunities that the bike brings. That’s exactly what Jack says. He’s been selling his gelato from his Pashley ’33’ for four years now and he deems it a wonderful experience. When push comes to shove (as it often does) this is Jack’s list of pros and cons of trading on a bike.

Pros:
Looks fantastic, good talking point.
Low set-up costs.
Low running costs.
No carbon footprint.
Easy access to venues (this has proved especially helpful in Cambridge where many of the buildings far out-date the motor vehicle and thus do not easily accomodate them).
Easily moveable within a venue when there are people present (low health and safety issues).
Might fall within the parameters of a peddling license (I am looking into this).

Cons:
Limited capacity to carry stock.
Limited range (it will fit in the back of a van but then this conflicts with some of the benefits mentioned above!).
Sometimes people do not take you as seriously as they would do should you happen to be in a vehicle.
Cycling can be exhausting!

As a low (or lower) cost solution to a van/truck/trailer, more traders should look to the bike.