Story Bikes in Somers Town for the People’s Museum


Sponsor: Somers Town Space Community Interest Company
Sponsor Liaison: Diana Foster
Student Team:

Luke Barckholtz, Connor Dowgielewicz, Claire Higginson, Sydney Smith

Abstract: The People’s Museum in Somers Town seeks to create a Story Bike service that would use a passenger cargo bicycle to provide transportation to residents in the area with limited mobility and offer historic guided tours to promote the museum mission. We surveyed the public and determined there is likely sufficient demand for such services. Through background research and interviews, we identified logistical and operational concerns associated with implementation of Story Bikes. We recommend the museum establish a pilot program that employs young people, purchase a Triobike Taxi, basic maintenance tools, and insurance through Unity Insurance. We also recommend developing an online booking system and using the Phoenix Place storage facility operated by Camden Council.

Story Bikes IQP Final Report

Story Bikes IQP Final Presentation

See a video of the Story Bike in operation (July 2023) here.

Executive Summary

The People’s Museum: A Space For Us is a community-led museum in Somers Town founded by Diana Foster that seeks to preserve the history of the ordinary people in the area through community engagement. The museum opened in May 2022, and it offers various events to expand their community outreach and spread awareness of its local history. This includes supporting local campaigns, hosting workshops about historical movements and current social issues, conducting guided walk tours, curating art, and hosting exhibitions. 

Somers Town, a small neighborhood in the Camden Borough, is an economically challenged area in Camden (London Borough of Camden Council, 2016). It has a rich history of ordinary, working-class citizens; however, much of this history is being lost as the neighborhood is gentrified.

Creating a Story Bike Service

The People’s Museum wants to further expand their community outreach by implementing a ‘Story Bike’ service, which uses a passenger cargo bicycle to provide transportation and historic tour services. A passenger cargo bicycle is a type of bicycle that is built on a three-wheeled platform and designed to transport more than one person. Passengers sit in the front of the bike, and the cyclist sits behind them on an elevated seat (see Figure ES1).Image of a Passenger Cargo Bike

Passenger Cargo Bike Benefits

  • Passenger cargo bikes are an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that are relatively easy to operate. Electric-assist motor options are common and provide additional power to the cyclist.
  • The bicycles are a faster mode of transportation than walking, but they can operate at slow enough speeds to allow for passengers to immerse themselves in the surrounding environment; this combination makes it an attractive option for transportation and historic touring.
  • Given their vehicle classification, passenger cargo bikes can operate on almost any road in London.
  • There are an increasing number of bike lanes throughout London, which makes it easy to travel safely.

The People’s Museum hopes to use this kind of bicycle as the Story Bike. This service can help to increase attendance at the People’s Museum, encourage community engagement and promote awareness about Somers Town history.

Project Objectives

To determine the feasibility of creating a Story Bike service for transportation and guided historic touring, we developed four objectives:

  1. Assess the public interest and market potential for the Story Bike service
  2. Evaluate the operational aspects of historic tours
  3. Evaluate the operational considerations of using a passenger cargo bike for transportation
  4. Establish strategies and recommendations for maintaining the service.


To achieve these objectives we surveyed the public, interviewed tour guides, bike mechanics and managers, and conducted in-person evaluations of historic tours and bike models. 

To gain insight into the public’s interest in the Story Bike service, we conducted anonymous surveys of five main groups: Somers Town residents, London residents, daily commuters, tourists from the United Kingdom, or international tourists. In the survey, we asked respondents about their knowledge of the People’s Museum and their expectations of and concerns for the Story Bike service. Following a pretest, we distributed our survey using street interception, table sitting, and social media. We also contacted different people for interviews through email, phone calls, or connections from our host. We prioritized in-person interviews when possible, but many contacts preferred to meet online over Zoom due to convenience.

To better understand tour guiding methods, we interviewed tour guides of a varied level of certification. We also attended a tour guide training class for the Camden Tour Guides. 

To learn more about passenger cargo bicycle services, we contacted bike shops and organizations that could offer relevant maintenance information, including Bugbugs, Bikeworks, YourBikeProject, and Cycling Without Age. We also attended a meeting with members of the Camden Council, the governing council in Somers Town.

We attended historic walking tours hosted by Living London History, Historic London Tours, and the British Museum, led by Open City, Camden, and volunteer tour guides, respectively. We evaluated each tour based on tour criteria discovered in background research.


Public Opinions

We received complete questionnaires from 86 participants. We had too few responses to draw meaningful conclusions about daily commuters or tourists. Future surveys might need to focus more on these groups to generate sufficient information. Our data analysis looks exclusively at the Somers Town residents and London residents outside Somers Town. We present a summary of the major findings below.

Residential Origin: Both the Somers Town residents and London residents outside Somers Town are slightly more interested in the bike tour service than the transportation service. However, overall interest in both services are relatively high (Figures ES2 and ES3).

Graph of Interest in a Guided Bike Tour Service by Residential OriginGraph of Interest in a Bike Transportation Service by Residential Origin

Age Groups: We recorded stronger support among older people for a bike tour, and wider support across ages for transportation. The 16-34 year age group had the least interest in these services (Figures ES4 and ES5). The leading concerns were found to be weather, prices, and safety for both services.

Graph of Interest in a Guided Bike Tour Service by Age GroupGraph of Interest in a Bike Transportation Service by Age Group

Tour Guide Interviews

Our interviews with tour guides revealed that one does not need a certification to be a tour guide in London; however, it often helps to learn about guiding techniques to create a more memorable and enjoyable tour. Our research shows that a memorable tour should offer content that meets six criteria. Tours should be: interesting or unique, easy to understand, relevant to the audience’s lives, personalized to the audience, and engaging. A guide can also choose whether or not to incorporate technology into the tour, such as digital tablets or headsets. 

Interviewees offered different insights for managing tours. We learned that training can easily be provided to staff. Most guides preferred an online booking system. We found that tours were most popular on the weekends and during warmer months. Guides considered social media the most effective tool to advertise tours. Guides suggested email lists, websites, and word of mouth to promote tours. Tour content seldom needs much revision, given the nature of the topics, but personalization is always important.

Bike Logistics

We found four possible passenger cargo bike options. Through interviews, we also learned to prefer bikes that have standardized components, easy accessibility, and strong electric assist systems.

We identified three options to store the bike, and that storing the bike outside is not feasible due to concerns of theft and weather.

Insurance for the Story Bike service is very specialized. We identified Unity Insurance, an insurance firm that offers policies covering public liability (minimum of £5 million), theft and employee liability.

We found that younger individuals have the strength, ability, and interest to operate a passenger cargo bicycle. In London, young individuals are required to be in school until they are 18 years old so their availability tends not to match opening hours at the People’s Museum. We found that young people ages 16-17 are incentivized to work at the London Living Wage, £11.95 per hour. Slightly higher wages will need to be used to make the employment opportunity more attractive for older age groups.


We make two overall and several targeted recommendations based on our findings.

Overall Recommendation

We recommend that the People’s Museum conduct a trial of the tour and transportation services before officially launching these services to the general public. Unfortunately, temporarily acquiring a passenger cargo bike is not possible, so the museum will need to purchase a bike in advance of the trial period.

We also recommend that the People’s Museum collaborate with local community organizations to spread the word of the Story Bike in Somers Town and engage a larger community. This could include working with the senior living homes and the local market. 

Target Audience

We recommend that the People’s Museum target Somers Town residents and the residents of London for the services provided by the Story Bike because these groups expressed more interest in the services than tourists. 

For the guided tours and transportation services we recommend targeting the older generations, specifically 55+ who would be most interested in partaking in either service. We would also recommend focusing towards 35-54 year olds for transportation service as they also reported being more likely to use the bike for that purpose.

In terms of marketing the bike, we recommend highlighting the numerous benefits of the Story Bike in Somers Town, such as its multi-generational impact, emphasis on sustainability, opportunity to increase overall physical and mental health, and accessible configuration.

Bicycle Tour Recommendation 

We recommend that the tour guides meet all the tour criteria to deliver the most memorable and enjoyable tour. The passenger cargo bike can drive on any road, avoiding bumps and potholes. Tours should be conducted on the weekends. Bookings should be handled through an online booking system, and advertising should emphasize social media. We recommend promoting the services also through email, website postings, and word of mouth. We recommend tours lasting between 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Bicycle Recommendation

We recommend the Museum purchase a Triobike Taxi. Its serviceable components are widely used across the industry. The bike has a removable foot platform, making entering and exiting the bike very accessible for less mobile individuals. The electric assist battery has the highest charge capacity, allowing for longer operation between charges. Its motor has high torque, allowing the pilot to pedal the bicycle with ease. The Triobike Taxi also has a large storage compartment, which we recommend storing a passenger blanket and first aid kit inside.

Service & Employment Recommendation

The passenger cargo bike will require relatively little maintenance. Tire pressure, loose bolts and overall wear & tear should be checked on days the bike is used to ensure the bike is operating smoothly and safely. These tasks require no professional skill, a bicycle tire pump and a multi-tool will be needed to carry out these tasks. Other infrequent maintenance tasks can be found in the manufacturer’s service manual and should be completed by qualified personnel. The museum should also keep batteries charged for the electric assist system to prevent premature wear on the battery.

The Camden Council’s Phoenix Court storage location is the ideal option for the Story Bike, as it is close to the museum and will come at no cost. The People’s Museum should continue with their efforts to hire young workers, as there is significant interest in local employment. We recommend hiring people 18+ years due to the operating hours of the museum conflicting with school schedules; resultantly, we recommend they should be paid £13-15 per hour for adequate incentive. We recommend insuring the passenger cargo bike with Unity Insurance, as it is the only UK-based insurance firm that covers insurance for this particular passenger cargo bike. 

Based on survey data, we recommend charging the public £10 per mile for the transportation service, and £10-£15 per tour ride per person for the guided bike tour service. Survey data indicated that Somers Town residents were interested in the services, but were not willing to pay as much. Therefore, we recommend providing them either discounted prices or free service as an incentive to stimulate the local area.