I operate a modest bicycle-based cargo hauling and delivery business here in Ann Arbor. Although I use a trailer hitched to a ordinary two-wheeled bicycle to deliver my loads, I’m also intrigued by pedal-powered vehicles that are designed from the ground up for carrying cargo. So when I spotted a three-wheeler in the wild, I pedaled up to the operator for a chat.
It turns out that Liz Brauer is not the original owner of this three-wheeler. She described how she bought it from Reuben Chapman, who previously operated a delivery business in Ann Arbor with this vehicle, which is of Japanese manufacture. Following up with Liz later for a photo opp, I met her son Nico, who was born at home in the Old West Side house visible in the background.
On the follow-up visit I was also able to inspect more closely the joint connecting the frame to the rear axel. It allows several degrees of lean, so that neither the natural pedaling motion of the rider, nor turns taken at speed under load, are likely to lift either of the rear wheels from the ground. At this point, Nico likely exceeds the recommended load capacity of the vehicle, but in his youth Liz toted him around in the basket.
Although Liz uses the three-wheeler on a regular basis to get to downtown, and enjoys walking to downtown, she’s not hostile towards vehicles with four wheels – cars.
In fact, she argued in an op-ed piece [AADL archive registration required, but free, and easy] published in the Ann Arbor News, that “You can’t just announce that downtown living without a car is special and have people buy into it. You have to have public transportation that supports it. We don’t.”