(Note: All photos courtesy of, and copyright of ©Martin Donat/lifecyclemag.de)
Sitting on a bend of the Ruhr river at the foot of the Ardey Hills, the small town of Wetter is a green idyll, with surroundings that provide ample opportunities for hiking, cycling, and other outdoor activities. The village is also home to Gundermann & Kinder E.V., a socially-involved organization whose members love where they live, but strive for a more connected and involved community, one that recognizes the importance of social cohesion and sustainability.
Gundermann is German for “Ground Ivy”, a type of plant known for being fierce and assertive, and one that is often used to help, heal, and spice up life. True to its name, Gundermann has aggressively rolled out initiatives and programs that focus on strengthening the local community through social life, art, culture, ecology, and social economy. Members organize public projects to create a forward-thinking local identity for Wetter, and sustainability is central to their vision.
Free Electric Cargo Bike Rental Program
One such initiative that naturally fit with their broader goals was the introduction of a free electric cargo bike rental program. Gundermann recognized the social, environmental, and safety benefits associated with more riding and less driving in their village. But they also knew they faced inertia built up over many years; a prevailing thought that everything should be done by car. In order to introduce a new way of thinking, association members had the opportunity to borrow the bike for two weeks at a time, a period long enough to test under realistic everyday life conditions so they could see that an e-cargo bike was a realistic alternative to driving a car.
Since the association would only be getting one cargo bike for the program, they wanted it to be easy to ride, easy to store, and capable. After testing a Tern GSD, they knew pretty quickly they had found the right fit.
Gundermann explained that the GSD was super handy and much more versatile than traditional front-load cargo bikes. It could carry plenty of cargo but was as small as a city bike. Riders could easily navigate the town’s numerous alleys and hills, and even store the cargo bike vertically if there was no space for parking at home. But above all, although many members of the association were new to cargo bikes, they were not intimidated by the compact, easy-to-ride GSD. The association could be confident that the GSD would be used by those members. And that made the difference in the end.
Feedback from the Program
By far, it has been women who are taking the most advantage of the free GSD rental, especially young mothers on the go. From home to school, then to work or running errands, and then back to school for pickup before returning home. Short distances, quick stops, on familiar routes.
The number one feedback was that the GSD helped manage these short-distance trips really well. The bike was a flexible form of transportation, which was a priority for users who need that kind of help to organize their everyday lives. Carrying a passenger (or 2 kids) was easy and safe, as the bike had a really low center of gravity and remained stable and agile even when loaded down. The GSD could also be used to carry cargo, such as groceries, backpacks, or items from the market while carrying a passenger. One enthusiastic tester commented on the practicality, saying not only does it fit two children, but also the groceries. And you can still easily tackle the town’s hilly streets, she noted.
Another discovery users had was the sense of renewed connection to one’s environment when riding a bike. They found they were rediscovering their village, as it opened up to them in a completely different way.
And then of course was the appreciation that this kind of locomotion was cleaner, healthier, and cheaper. And to the users' surprise, trips were often faster on the GSD than in a car, especially for shorter-distance trips that involved quick in-and-out stops.
Gundermann & Kinder E.V.’s free GSD rental program has been a ringing success, and they are now looking for partners to help buy GSD e-cargo bikes for each district of their town. They also plan to open the program to non-association members. Their experience shows how versatile e-cargo bikes are.
The program has also boosted the association’s focus on sustainability. Many Wetter residents want to preserve the town’s pleasant rural atmosphere while making the most of the innovative technology that e-cargo bikes provide. Gundermann also would like to get more men involved in the loaner program, since the GSD can be easily shared by a couple, even if there is a large height difference between the two. The association ultimately hopes that more residents will switch to e-bikes with the help of state subsidy programs.
At Tern, we often speak about bikes for business. But non-profit organizations and government bodies alike are also helping to make community cycling the future of daily travel, with a big impact on our quality of life.
And for those interested in starting or becoming involved in a group that promotes a more connected community, Gundermann & Kinder E.V. has a clear message. “Try it out! Place an ad in a newspaper or on social networks, find like-minded people, and get started. And be sure to network regionally, find out about possible government funding, or find suitable sponsors as partners.”
You can read Lifecyle Magazine's review of the Tern GSD here.