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BBC journalist corrects cargo bike critics, points out it "replaced my car" and saved "£1,000 in fuel"

"Using my bike costs the BBC nothing": Anna Holligan also "set the record straight" over incorrect claims her employer "has somehow indulged me" by paying for it...

A BBC foreign correspondent has defended cargo bikes and her choice to use one instead of a car amid a host of spurious and, at times, strangely critical comments about her use of the bicycle to cover a climate protest in the Netherlands this weekend.

You might already be aware of Anna Holligan, the BBC reporter based out of the Netherlands, who regularly makes appearances on our live blog when she shares her Dutch News from the Cycle Path videos on social media. Doing pretty much exactly what they say on the tin, Holligan puts her broadcasting skills to entertaining and informative use, presenting followers a news round-up in the most Dutch way possible — while cycling somewhere on a cycle path. Hence the name.

This weekend, Holligan was reporting on the climate demonstration at The Hague, where Greta Thunberg was arrested twice, and shared the post below asking, "Is there any other way to cover a climate protest?"

Such was the response to the post, the BBC foreign correspondent had soon penned several others, addressing comments about the cost of the model of cargo bike and clarifying that no, her employer had not paid for it either.

"I don't usually bother with this stuff but... I see people suggesting the BBC has somehow indulged me because I'm riding a £7,000 bike," she wrote. "I feel compelled to set the record straight on a couple of points.

"This is my personal bike. I paid for it. It hasn't cost the BBC a penny. I bought it in 2020 to do two 10km daily school runs. At the time the bike cost me around £4,000. Yes, it's a lot of money. This bike has replaced my car.

"I discovered it was a great tool for newsgathering and reporting too. Over the last four years, I've cycled 15,000km. This would have cost more than £1,000 in fuel. Some of which I could have claimed as expenses. Using my bike costs the BBC nothing. The end."

> "But tradespeople can't carry their stuff around by bike" – oh yes they can! How cargo bikes are changing the way people work

Sharing a photo showing how much the post blew up, with more than four million impressions on Twitter (X), Holligan admitted that she "didn't expect to generate such debate and engagement".

"Realise I'm privileged to be able to work hard in a job I love to generate enough to afford this bike. It has saved many emissions and euros… but [the] real reason I invested? For time it bought me, to work and spend with my child."

The posts caused plenty of discussion, road safety campaigner CyclingMikey saying he "wouldn't give much credence" to the "very strange and hateful trolls around", adding "of course it's logical to use such a bike for the school run and shopping in the Netherlands".

Dr Jonathan Leach, a GP at Davenal House Surgery in Bromsgrove, called the cargo bike use "brilliant".

> Cargo bike company Babboe announces replacement programme for 22,000 faulty frames after attempted cover-up of manufacturing defects

"I do home visits to my patients by Brompton. Yes, it is not the cheapest bike, but like you I sold a car to purchase it. It costs me about a set of tyres, brake pads and chain per year. Much less than the car it replaced irrespective of other benefits."

Others also made the cost comparison versus a car point, some questioning why a bicycle is automatically seen as an incredibly expensive luxury even if it costs far less than a vehicle that would be viewed as inexpensive or a budget-friendly purchase?

Retired journalist Tony Vogel said: "I'm always amused when people who own cars that cost £20,000 are scandalised by folks who ride £5,000 bikes."

We heard similar arguments last year when Adrian Chiles used his Guardian column to claim that cargo bikes costing £3,999 are a "new kind of class politics".

"I saw one for sale outside a bike shop," he wrote. "I glanced at the price tag, walked on, did a double take, and took a closer look. I was having trouble with some new contact lenses, so I gave my eyes a bit of a rub to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. £3,999! I swear even the dog stood stock still and went 'Huh?' in the manner of Scooby-Doo. I scanned the pavement in case a decimal point had fallen off, but no joy. Four grand! Who knew?

"And now all I see is cargo bikes, which I notice fall into two categories. There are the four-grand ones, pedalled by (obviously) affluent parents. But most of them, probably just as expensive, are ridden by the decidedly unaffluent, slogging around being paid peanuts to supply the affluent with takeaways and assorted other essentials of modern life."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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26 comments

Avatar
grOg | 1 month ago
1 like

Horses for courses but for most people, a cargo bike will not do the same job as a car; I have a bike set up for commuting and another with 2 sturdy baskets for local shopping, yet neither replace my need for a motor vehicle; I have a multi-purpose van that can seat 5 adults which I use regularly to carry goods; a cargo bike would not carry enough, go as far, or carry enough people.

Avatar
Steve K replied to grOg | 1 month ago
7 likes

grOg wrote:

Horses for courses but for most people, a cargo bike will not do the same job as a car; I have a bike set up for commuting and another with 2 sturdy baskets for local shopping, yet neither replace my need for a motor vehicle; I have a multi-purpose van that can seat 5 adults which I use regularly to carry goods; a cargo bike would not carry enough, go as far, or carry enough people.

In the case of our family, a cargo bike has replaced the need (or potential need) for a second car.  Yes, there are things a car can do that the cargo bike can't.  But there are plenty of things both can do, and there are times that family demands mean we need to be doing two of those things at the same time and in different places.

Avatar
GoodWheelHunting replied to grOg | 1 month ago
8 likes

A cargo bike can replace a vast majority (I would say 80%) of car trips from school journeys, to work commute, to grocery shops.

It won't ever be the solution for intercity trip or carrying 5 people or goods across a country, but what is the proportion of car trips that go into those categories?

Avatar
grOg replied to GoodWheelHunting | 1 month ago
0 likes

Who uses a cargo bike for commuting? and if a school is within cycling distance, walking is a better and safer option. I would never use my van for intercity trips or travel across the country; that's what trains, planes and buses are for; my point was intracity use of a motor vehicle.

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Rendel Harris replied to grOg | 1 month ago
7 likes

grOg wrote:

 if a school is within cycling distance, walking is a better and safer option

Mrs H teaches in a school that is within cycling distance, about 12 km away, it takes her 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic, traffic lights, headwinds et cetera. She already leaves home at 6:30 am, I'm not sure that suggesting to her that it would be a better and safer option to leave at 4:30 am and walk it is going to be very well received. You don't half talk some old nonsense.

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marmotte27 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
5 likes

Even smaller cyclable distances are not easily walkable, since cycling is about four times as fast, but why would a trOll resort to actual maths and facts?

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hawkinspeter replied to grOg | 1 month ago
4 likes

grOg wrote:

Who uses a cargo bike for commuting? and if a school is within cycling distance, walking is a better and safer option. I would never use my van for intercity trips or travel across the country; that's what trains, planes and buses are for; my point was intracity use of a motor vehicle.

What's wrong with commuting on a cargo bike? If you look at cycle traffic in enlightened European countries, there's usually lots of parents with some kids (or pets) carried in some kind of cargo type bike.

You'd be better off asking why people commute in SUVs

Avatar
Hirsute replied to grOg | 1 month ago
4 likes

5 mile cycle ride that would take 1.5 hours to walk and on NSL roads with no footway. Yeah sounds much safer and practical.

Why do you continue to write about a country you have no idea about ?

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
0 likes

Well we should consider if that applies to us. They said "walking is better and safer" - do *you* know Australian law? Perhaps it's now legal to hunt cyclists in Australia and it's thus more dangerous?

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
1 like

Does sound a bit like "something something poncey journos with 7k to spaff on a bike which can cost 100 pounds or so a year to run, most of us can only dream of having that cash spare after we have to spend *checks prices* 30k on a SUV plus tax, insurance, have you seen the cost of fuel..."

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Owd Big 'Ead replied to grOg | 1 month ago
2 likes

Pfft....
You must be a soft, car driving, Jessie!
I'm currently commuting 27 miles each way on a Larry vs Harry Lizard King for shits and giggles.
No electric assist, just plain old brawn.
Lost an epic amount of weight and still do it pretty as much as quickly as my neighbour who drives his wankpanzer a shorter route, but has to deal with all the congestion.
I'm very much an outlier, but within reason anything is possible.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 1 month ago
9 likes

Of course the real scandal is that Anna Holligan only gets mentioned on some obscure part of the BBC, when she should be featured front and centre of every BBC prog about health, obesity, congestion, pollution, road danger, cycling, driving etc, etc. 

But it's the BBC, so utility cyclists only get mentioned on progs that 99% of the viewers won't see.

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Motdoc | 1 month ago
0 likes

Good on her!

I do wonder if these bikes are overpriced. This vs a Honda civic in terms of materials and complexity it seems like less value. That doesn't mean people shouldn't have them. But if they were half the price a lot more people would, and the world would be a better place. 

Avatar
fenix replied to Motdoc | 1 month ago
6 likes

How many Honda Civics are made Vs a cargo bike ?

If it were possible to sell them for half the price someone would have done it and cleaned up.

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chrisonabike replied to fenix | 1 month ago
1 like

Perhaps they're calling for the government to subsidise them?  Ridiculous of course, the government doesn't subsidise people's private transport!

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chrisonabike replied to Motdoc | 1 month ago
10 likes

Top tip: always check how many pages you're getting in any book and divide that by the price - then compare that with a telephone directory* to make sure you're not being overcharged on the paper and ink!

* For younger readers - it's a bit like Siri, but you're Siri.  With paper.

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Rendel Harris replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
8 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Top tip: always check how many pages you're getting in any book and divide that by the price - then compare that with a telephone directory* to make sure you're not being overcharged on the paper and ink!

* For younger readers - it's a bit like Siri, but you're Siri.  With paper.

To quote Brian in Family Guy when a young person asks him what a book is, "It's like the internet only made out of trees."

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
1 like

Especially since telephone directories came free with the line.
Boy do I miss them and the times. Imagine needing to speak to someone, and finding their number, just like that. And firms actually answering their phones, instead of making you wait in an endless hellloop...

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Rendel Harris replied to Motdoc | 1 month ago
4 likes

Motdoc wrote:

But if they were half the price a lot more people would, and the world would be a better place. 

Plenty available at well under half the price of the example here on this site's sister site: https://ebiketips.road.cc/content/advice/buyers-guide/best-e-cargo-bikes...

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GoodWheelHunting replied to Motdoc | 1 month ago
4 likes

The car industry is vastly subsidized, benefits from economy of scale and decades of engineering optimisation and the entry level vehicles such as the civic are in fact loss leaders for most car manufacturers.

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marmotte27 replied to GoodWheelHunting | 1 month ago
2 likes

Hence the odious SUVs ...

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IanMK | 1 month ago
7 likes

I assume that she can't claim mileage from the BBC because she is in NL. If she was was in the UK she could claim back business milage at 20p/mile.....wait until the trolls find out about that.

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KDee replied to IanMK | 1 month ago
3 likes

What are these euros and kilometres in your expense report? 

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don simon fbpe replied to KDee | 1 month ago
15 likes

Wait until they discover there's more kms to a mile. She'll be claiming 1.6km for every single mile!! #Outrageous

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KDee replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
3 likes

What a liberty!!!

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AnotherChrisOnA... replied to IanMK | 1 month ago
2 likes

The Beeb's cycling mileage allowance must have improved since I claimed it in the mid-80s, 4p/mile!
Apparently I was the first person in the Eng Dept ever to claim it. Visited a tower-build 70 miles away.

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