As a legion of ice-cream-cart pushers can attest, the tricycle is an ideal contraption for hauling big loads through city streets. But for commuters who would occasionally go shopping, cargo trikes are simply too unwieldy. They’re too wide for bike lanes, don’t fit on public transport or in the trunk of a car, and require secure, off-street storage space.

But the humble tricycle may become the urban hauler par excellence with the introduction of the Kiffy, an intriguingly versatile vehicle created by French designer Norbert Peytour of NP Innovation, in collaboration with Toulon-based design firm Agence 360.

Kiffy’s not broad in the beam – at 22in, its wheelbase is just the width of the handlebars – but is easy to steer and tricycle-stable even on uneven and slanted ground. Credit the “Swing System” suspension, which allows the front wheels to lean independently, and creates bicycle-like handling.

But that is only half the story, literally. The Kiffy splits in half.

There is no aluminium origami at work here. Taking the Kiffy apart takes about 10 seconds and four simple movements. The two-wheeled front half becomes a dolly-like shopping cart, easily manoeuverable through markets and over sidewalks. It is pushed with the handlebars, and has a kickstand at the front that allows it to stand on its own. The back half can be left chained to a bike rack (without the front, only a felonious unicyclist could ride it away) until the shopping excursion or furniture-hauling is over, when it reconnects for the ride home.

For storage, the back half drops into a small shelf between the two front wheels, and two small auxiliary wheels help create a stable and nimble package that can roll into the corner of an apartment or garage. Compacted, the Kiffy’s footprint is less than two square feet.

At the equivalent of roughly $2,000, a fully kitted Kiffy is hardly priced like a children’s tricycle. Good thing, then, that it hauls an impressive spec sheet. The trike weighs just under 29lbs, but can carry as much as 66lbs in its cargo area. Hydraulic disc brakes on the front wheels ensure that such loads do not compromise stopping power. Smaller wheels make it a little shorter nose-to-tail than most commuter bikes, at only 57in. The trike is available with chain or belt drive, in a single speed or with a two-speed rear hub.

The Kiffy is being manufactured in Saint Etienne, France, not far from where it was designed, with the first units set to be delivered in January 2015.

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