Cargo bike revolution helps business and environment

The vehicle pictured may look like something from a James Bond film, but it is one of a range of ‘cargo bikes’ that have been heavily promoted over the last couple of months, following the conclusion of a survey showing the potential benefits of deliveries by bicycle.

Cycle couriers have existed for several years, especially in big cities, but they have generally been limited to delivering documents and small flat-pack items that can be carried in a rucksack or shoulder bag. In 2011, the European Cyclists Federation (ECF), a supporter of T&E, launched a project called CycleLogistics, part-funded by the EU, which was designed to work out the full potential for switching deliveries from cars, vans and lorries to bicycles. The project’s findings were presented in May at the Transport Research Arena, a major conference on transport policies and solutions.
 
The CycleLogistics project found that bikes and cargo bikes could accommodate 51% of all deliveries in European cities currently being moved by all types of motor vehicles, and over 90% of all supermarket shopping trips. According to one calculation, that would amount to a saving of 37 million tonnes of C02 per year, or 1% of Europe’s current emissions.
 
There are also economic arguments for shifting goods transport to bicycles. In the Netherlands, the global parcel delivery firm DHL has replaced 33 delivery vans with 33 cargo bikes, thus saving 152 tonnes of CO2 and €430,000 per year. ‘CycleLogistics shows that cargo bikes can save companies thousands of euros every year,’ says Randy Rzewnicki, the ECF’s project manager. ‘And they contribute to reducing CO2, urban air pollution, noise pollution and traffic. Bikes are a key part of the solution for the future of our congested cities.’
 
The findings show that it’s the last one or two kilometres of an item’s journey that are best by bicycle, given that deliveries to shops in pedestrianised areas can be difficult, and traffic restrictions make it hard to get vans and lorries into some residential areas. CycleLogistics estimates that up to 70% of delivery costs are in the last mile.
 
The move towards shifting more goods by bicycle has led to a range of different cargo bikes, some of which can carry up to 400-500kg of goods. Some are lengthened bicycles so a large container can be fitted between the handle bars and the front wheel, while others have been fitted out to take items that require refrigeration. For example, the European Sperm Bank in Copenhagen uses a bike to transport sperm samples across the city.
 
Information on CycleLogistics is available at www.cyclelogistics.eu.