Seminar #14 Carry on Cargo Bike: The future of local deliveries?

Date – Thursday 3rd December 2020

In the 14th event in our Sustainable Transport Futures seminar series, we explored the question ‘Carry on cargo bike – The future of local deliveries?’.  

Presentation 1: Dr Luke Blazejewski, Dr Graeme Sherriff and Dr Nick Davies , Healthy Active Cities, University of Salford

The seminar kicked off with Dr Luke Blazejewski, Dr Graeme Sherriff and Dr Nick Davies launching their scoping study – Delivering the last mile: scoping the potential for e-cargo bikes– from their EPSRC Decarbon8 project. Their research looked at a range of sectors across Greater Manchester who were either already using e-cargo bikes or interested in discussing the potential role of the bikes within their business. There remain significant challenges in relation to mainstreaming this relatively new technology. These include the size and cost of the bikes when compared with other tried and tested (and competitively priced) transport modes such as light commercial vehicles. Other challenges include limited loading capacities, storage, multiple drop-offs (particularly with hot food) and a general lack of awareness of e-cargo bikes. Overcoming these challenges relates not only to the design of the bikes but also to the urban environment and available road infrastructure, as well as the practices and expectations of businesses. We have seen, for example, that users can experience challenges when using e-cargo bikes on existing cycling infrastructure, which can be narrow and require tight manoeuvres. Similarly, business practices may need to be adapted to ensure that the bikes are kept charged throughout the day and that fresh produce remains fresh and/or warm.  

Presentation 2: Glynis Francis, Chorlton Bike Deliveries

The second speaker was Glynis Francis from Chorlton Bike Deliveries, an organization set up, literally in Glynis’ backyard, in response to the threat of the Covid-19 virus as a way to the delivery of food to neighbours who were finding it hard to get to the shop. Glynis discussed the importance of behaviour change in their approach and how whilst wider changes need to happen, individuals and groups can also make decisions to improve their local communities through their actions. Chorlton bike deliveries has had support from Manchester Bike Hire and TfGM and Glynis now has her own E-cargo bike too. In expanding the service, Chorlton Bike Deliveries aims to support local independent retailers. In the process of the work, riders often find that the cargo bikes themselves help in attracting people to the idea. They can see the cargo bikes and how much they can carry. Chorlton Bike Deliveries is now looking for ways to expand, wanting to pay a living wage to employees and setup as a cooperative.  

Presentation 3: Ben Knowles, Pedal Me

The final speaker was Ben Knowles, CEO and Co-Founder of Pedal Me; an e-cargo bike logistics and pedicab company in London. Pedal Me has recently published a report analyzing their fleet of cargo bikes, and found that cargo bikes are particularly efficient in urban areas and demonstrate a competitive advantage over cars and small vans. This is mainly due to shorter journey distances and shorter pickup and drop off times. Their fleet of cargo bikes can carry surprisingly large items – like fridges and cement mixers – and these activities can also be used to demonstrate the potential of cargo bikes for urban logistics. Ben emphasized that his main message is that there are a range of different jobs which can be done by cargo bike and cargo bikes have much lower CO2 footprints in manufacturing and usage compared to e-vans and vehicles. Ben finished by stating that the possibilities of e-cargo deliveries should not be underestimated and that city futures should no longer be designed around motor vehicle logistics.  

Q & As

The seminar ended with a lively Q&A starting with discussions on the importance of disruptive approaches to the status quo – with Glynis highlighting the importance of a personal approach to these and Ben discussing how Pedal Me often uses social media to be loud, to challenge people’s (mis)conceptions of what can be done by bike, and encourage people to think bigger – and finishing with moving thinking beyond large cities to e-cargo in smaller, lower density areas. An audience member working in Hastings discussed their e-cargo delivery enterprise and mentioned that even with 6km as the longest delivery distance, they have covered 3500 miles on 3 bikes in 6 months with greater demand than they can currently meet.  

Presentation slides from the webinar