Bicycle trailers can hold hundreds of pounds of goods, food, and furniture. However, high quality and durable trailers for bikes can be expensive (about $350) for one bicycle rider, especially if they plan to only use it a few times per year. A trailer sharing program could be the answer to distributing the high cost of purchasing and maintaining the trailers for sporadic use.

My friend Josh pulls a trailer with automated bike counting equipment.

West Town Bikes and the Loaded Bikes Collective are asking for your vote in the Pepsi Refresh Project. You’ve probably heard of it by now – when Pepsi advertises something, they really advertise something. It’s on the radio, television, and on every soda can and bottle. Visit their project page for more information, a budget breakdown, and to vote. (Loaded Bikes delivers for Community Supported Agriculture, farmers markets, and city gardens.)

In 2009, I created a proposal (really a shot in the dark) for a trailer sharing program modeled after ZipCar and I-GO. Read the full proposal after the break.

Start a trailer sharing program, like ZipCar/i-Go

Note: The proposal was written in mind for a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, but was never submitted. Feel free to copy or adapt this proposal and idea, but I would like that you acknowledge me as a contributor.

Grant money would go to:

  • Research, startup costs
  • One year’s administration
  • Capital purchase of trailers
  • Training program to local rental managers of program
  • Marketing, promotional materials


Many cyclists have expressed the desire to use a trailer, but not to own one. They feel they would only use it less than 4 times per year, and their predicted low usage does not justify a trailer’s purchase. Also, shopping for a trailer is not a traditional shopping experience, where products can be tested and exchanged or returned.

Program would be managed by [local bicycle advocacy organization, LBAO] or [local bike rental company, LBRC] under contract to [your city’s sponsoring CMAQ organization].

Amount of rental fee would go to pay the following: trailer host a nominal payment for storage; also, the maintenance of trailers, administration costs at LBAO/LBRC, and purchase of new trailers for expansion would be covered by the fee.

Trailers could either be hosted/stored by 1) major shopping destination(s) who would pay the rental fee as a service to customers, either A) inside a store from the customer service desk, or B) with remote locking technology; or 2) bike shops where the user would pay the rental fee.

Example, scenario 1A: Whole Foods at Roosevelt/Canal [I’m talking about Chicago here] would host/store 2 bike trailers for their customers use. The customer service desk would either keep the keys at the desk, and the trailer would be locked up outside, or the customer service desk would store them in a room and retrieve them for a customer. All of this would occur after the shopper’s trip within the store. The shopper would be free to shop at other stores nearby after having obtained the trailer and goods at Whole Foods. The goods currently on the trailer would be the responsibility of the shopper – some stores might let the shopper bring it inside, or the shopper could bring a friend to watch over the goods outside. The shopper would have a defined period of time to return the trailer. 2 hours seems good. Whole Foods would pay the rental fee to the contractor as a service to its customers. Free use of the trailer would attract customers.

Example, scenario 1B: A remote locking/unlocking technology would be installed on trailers, similar to the technology used by ZipCar/I-GO. Instead, the technology could exist on the locking post (think of the rental luggage carts at airports). The user reserves the trailer online and when the time comes, approaches the locked trailer or the locking post. The user enters his membership code and the trailer or locking post checks the central server to check the member’s reservation for this trailer. If the reservation is valid, the trailer unlocks itself or the locking post unlocks itself from the trailer.

Example, scenario 2: Bike Shop would store the trailer in the store. User comes to bike shop, purchases nothing, but rents the trailer for a fee. The Bike Shop salespeople would collect the fee and submit it to the contractor. The Bike Shop would be paid once per month by the contractor. Hosting the trailer would attract customers to Bike Shop.

Bike 2015 Plan connection: See Chapter 6, Objective 4, Strategy 4: Shop By Bike campaign. This would be the ultimate shop by bike campaign.

Some stores may be willing to cover all the costs of a program like this.

The alternative to this fee-based or shop-assisted program is to have groups of people purchase trailers at a discount for their shared use. They would be educated on how to ride with a trailer properly, and they would sign an agreement with each other on the stipulations for its use, who would store it, how they would pay for maintenance, etc… That would be the communal method scenario.