The use of cargo bikes is undergoing an explosion. The Danish capital, Copenhagen is leading the way with 40,000 cargo bikes in use every day. While many bikes are used for transporting children, they are also taking the freight sector by storm. As cities seek to slash transport-related emissions and tackle traffic congestion, the cargo bike is showing itself to be an attractive and versatile last-mile alternative. In the UK alone, there are now 450 independent businesses and trades-people using cargo bikes.
There are a range of EU-funded projects that are piloting the use of the bikes, as well as innovative hub models for zero-emission last mile logistics. For example, the ULaads project brings together UPS, ViaVan, Bpost and other logistics stakeholders with research bodies including TOI, the University of Groningen and the cities of Bremen, Mechelen and Groningen (and others) to test new cargo-bike models, smart lockers, micro-hubs and autonomous vehicles.
Meanwhile the City Changer Cargo Bike project (supported by the Horizon2020 programme) coordinates training and workshops for city authorities, the commercial sector, the private sector and NGOs, as well as piloting innovative funding and financing to address the high price of cargo bikes. The high initial purchase price of a cargo bike, which may be a barrier for smaller independent businesses, could potentially be addressed by the growing number of initiatives that are trialling low-cost cargo bike rental schemes and micro-hubs. The growth in the use of cargo bikes is also being supported by enhanced e-bike technology.
Predictions from Deloitte forecast that there will be 300 million e-bikes on the world's streets by 2023, a 50% increase on current numbers. E-cargo bikes have a host of advantages over larger vehicles: they can move more quickly through the city streets, so are able to deliver packages 60% faster than vans. They are also cleaner, saving around 90% in carbon emissions.
However, the growing use of cargo bikes requires adaptions to urban logistics centres to accommodate the new vehicles. In Gothenburg, a new logistics centre for e-cargo bikes has been established on the basement floor of the Nordstan shopping centre. This offers a new solution for couriers, offering storage, space for reloading goods from truck to bicycle container and even capacity for the service and maintenance of cargo bikes.
Original article published by The Guardian on 20 January 2022.
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