Check it out! Cargo Bike Library Takes Off in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


While the bicycle is ideal for individuals to quickly access local destinations, it is often not convenient to bike with heavy or bulky loads or with a passenger on a normal bicycle.


Shopping and household goods as well as children and pets can require an automobile to transport. The Watershed, a sustainability resource center in Sydney, Australia, dedicated to supporting sustainable environments in the urban context, decided to provide people with different options for transporting heavier and bulkier items and people. Inspired by a trip to Copenhagen and the Danish culture of carrying almost everything by bicycle, one of the staff at the Watershed came up with the idea of providing rental cargo bicycles and trailers to Sydney residents at a low cost. This project became known as the Bike Library.


Image Source: Devin Gibson

As bicycling in Sydney has become more popular over the last 10 years, the city has undertaken efforts to inspire people to reduce automobile travel and to use bicycles in their daily lives to a greater degree. With an initial grant of $20,000 from the City of Sydney and the Marrickville Councils, but only $8,000 needed to purchase the bicycles, the Bike Library remains a cost-effective initiative and will provide a major contribution to increasing cycling in Sydney. By providing bicycles to local area residents for free for three hours and then charging $10 for a 24 hour loan, using a bicycle to transport goods and people is particularly inexpensive. The initial sign-up cost is only $10 for local residents and $20 for out-of-town residents and also requires a security deposit in the form of a $250 credit card hold or cash deposit.

Depending on the needs of the user, a variety of bikes and trailers are available. The current library is small - including two cargo bikes, a standard commuter bike with rack, and two trailers - but will likely expand if the12 month trial period is successful. All of the bicycles are maintained by a professional mechanic and are provided to users in a condition suitable for immediate use. Users are cautioned that they must observe bicycle and helmet laws and must return the bicycle if it is in need of repairs. In addition, users are notified that they are responsible for the full cost of the bicycle if it is stolen.

Image Source: Devin Gibson

There are two cargo bikes in the library, one which has a long rear-wheel base and extra-large panniers, and the other, which can seat two children (with seatbelts) and can carry up to 75 kilograms (165 pounds). A standard commuter bike is also on offer and has a rear-rack attached; this bike was purchased to function as a basic bike to attach to the trailers. In addition to these bikes, library members can also check out a utility trailer, which connects to a standard bicycle, as well as a kiddie trailer, which can seat two children and has a maximum weight limit of 36 kilograms (80 pounds).

At the official launch of the Bike Library, both the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and the Mayor of Marrickville, Sam Iskander, were present. Clover Moore summarized the Library's purpose by stating that it is an "affordable, convenient, healthy, and environmentally friendly alternative to running errands in cars" and will "encourage more people to use bikes to get around their local area" (The Daily Telegraph 2010).


With funding from both the City of Sydney and Marrickville Councils and the clear demonstration of political will by the mayors of the respective councils, the Bike Library has received a great deal of support as it works to create a more bicyclist-friendly Sydney. The $400 per month operating cost, used mainly for bicycle maintenance, and the volunteer workforce will ensure that the Bike Library remains inexpensive into the future. Initial projected use targets have been equaled and surpassed in the two months the Bike Library has been operational, indicating the popularity of the initiative. At present the Bike Library has almost 60 members, which puts the membership rate on track to achieve the anticipated membership level of 100 members within the first 12 months.

Image Source: Devin Gibson


Judging by the Bike Library's success during the 12 month evaluation period, a decision will be made on whether to expand the Bike Library and provide continued funding the project. Marketing efforts will be needed to ensure that area residents are aware of the Bike Library and understand how to use the facility. By maintaining accurate records and continuing to market the Library's services, the Watershed can demonstrate the success of the Bike Library.


Mithra Cox
The Watershed
218 King Street
Newtown Sydney NSW 2042
Tel: 02 9519 6366


The Daily Telegraph. (2010). Sydney Gets First Australian Bike Library at Newtown from City of
Sydney Council, Marrickville Council. Retrieved from

The Watershed. (2010). The Watershed Bike Library: Information for Members. Retrieved from

Filed in: Promoting Walking and Bicycling, Case Studies, International

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