The cargo bike, also known as the cargo bicycle or bakfiets, is currently experiencing a renaissance and is recognised as a clean, safe and efficient mode of transport for urban freight and passenger traffic. As a human-powered and fuel-free vehicle, this form of active transport could bring even more benefits to our cities than other breakthrough technologies. Let’s take a closer look at this emerging technology and its potential for urban transport.
The new economy of urban deliveries
Cargo bikes are proving to be versatile vehicles of change for urban business interests thanks to their cost-effectiveness. They also reduce the need for polluting and noisy delivery trucks that contribute to traffic chaos in cities. They make the streets cleaner and safer for pedestrians and cyclists during rush hour.
A study commissioned by the European Union concludes that 25% of all goods deliveries and 50% of all light deliveries in cities could be done by cargo bikes. All over the world, customers are increasingly buying everything from food to furniture from online retailers. The expectation of immediacy, especially in urban centres, has led to a massive increase in traffic on city streets. Meanwhile, 87% of Millennials prefer to shop with socially and environmentally responsible companies. In this context, informing your customers that their package has arrived by a sustainable and environmentally friendly means of transport could become a significant advantage.
Benny Engelbrecht, the Danish Minister of Transport, stated in November 2019: “Bicycles can’t change the world, but they’re damn close.” Cities are partnering with private delivery companies to promote cargo bikes as an alternative to delivery trucks. New York City recently announced a new programme that allows cargo bikes operated by Amazon, UPS and DHL to park in existing commercial loading zones normally reserved for trucks and vans. UPS has deployed cargo bikes in several European cities after successfully testing them in Hamburg in 2012.
The bright electric future led by bikes
According to the Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV), electrically assisted cargo bikes surpassed the number of electric cars sold in Germany last year (39,000 vs. 32,000 electric cars) – an impressive figure considering that electric cars have benefited from significant government subsidies, while e-bikes received only a small subsidy. Deloitte predicts that there will be 300 million e-bikes on the roads worldwide by 2023, a 50% increase on current figures. These statistics seem to show that despite all the attention on electric and autonomous vehicles, the future of e-mobility is in fact led by bicycles. In the next five years, 40 million electric bicycles will be sold worldwide, dwarfing the 12 million electric vehicles that will be on the road in the same period.
Copenhagen and Amsterdam are the pioneers in the use of cargo bikes. In the greater Copenhagen area, around 40,000 cargo bikes are used every day. In Copenhagen itself, the city has found that 26% of households with two or more children own a cargo bike. In fact, cargo bikes in Copenhagen are primarily used to transport children. In Amsterdam, 90 % of cargo bikes are sold to mothers and fathers looking for a convenient and sustainable transport option for their children.
The comeback of the cargo bike with the exponential growth of the electric assisted bike market seems to have great potential, not only for urban delivery transport, but also for passenger transport, especially for families. No matter where we live, we will most likely see the e-load bike in one form or another as a sustainable, convenient and inclusive transport option in our neighbourhood.
One thing is certain: a future on two wheels is a greener and healthier one. A future we can look forward to.