The world we live in is facing its fair share of challenges. Whether it’s businesses trying to stay afloat amidst a pandemic or the looming threat of climate catastrophe: it’s enough to make a grown woman cry. I won’t pretend to have the solutions to these problems, but I’ve been researching a way in which we can save our businesses some money and feel less guilty about the impact we’re all having on the planet. What I found has given me some hope about the future that we can all create together if we put our minds to it. Today I’m talking about sustainable urban logistics. To be specific, the Urban Last Mile: the never-ending stream of goods and services being driven into and around towns, delivered to our doorsteps at the click of a button.
Purchasing behaviour and consumer expectations concerning delivery speeds have been permanently changed by the pandemic. An increased demand for delivery services and same day grocery deliveries is being seen globally. In less than a decade, global parcel shipping volumes almost tripled, reaching over 103 billion parcels delivered in 2019. By 2026, this market is expected to reach over 260 billion parcels delivered. The logistics sector alone is responsible for about 20% of CO2 mobility emissions in urban areas, represents up to 18% of urban traffic flows, and reduces road capacity by 30%. Compared to ten years ago, van usage in the UK has increased by nearly 30% and by a whopping 71% compared to 2 decades ago.
The problem at hand: we are still driving all these goods around our towns with the polluting motor vehicle. This trend is unsustainable and won’t change, unless we change the way we do business.[i] The ‘Urban Last Mile’ has always been the most complex and costly part of any supply chain and can make up 40% of transport costs. That is, until you ditch the van, car or moped and switch to electric cargo bikes.
Electric cargo bikes have proven themselves to be a gamechanger, playing a significant role in creating a cleaner, cheaper, safer, healthier and more efficient way of doing business. Hills used to be an obstacle for regular bikes, but electric bikes can fly through even the hilliest of terrains such as in Cornwall. E-cargo bike sales in Europe increased by 38.4% in 2020, and by 65.9% in 2021. Amazon, FedEx, UPS, DHL, UberEats, Disney, ZAPP, Gorillas, JustEat and Domino’s are just some of the big fish that have chosen to ditch their fuel guzzlers in favour of e-cargo bikes, and they have been supported by governments all over the world. In 2020, the City of London turned 38 car parking spaces into a hub for Amazon’s cargo bikes, taking 85 vans off London’s roads every day, saving 23.000 vehicle journeys into the city centre in one fell swoop.
Increasing numbers of small British businesses have started to incorporate cargo bikes into their business models too. Be it greengrocers, retailers, bakeries, takeaways, restaurants, small breweries, flower delivery companies, photographers, food banks, churches, charities, the National Trust, doctors, pharmacies, carpenters, plumbers or companies delivering covid tests: they are all hiring or purchasing cargo bikes for their local day to day activities.
Many small businesses all over Europe set up web shops during the lockdowns but didn’t have traditional, expensive delivery systems in place. Using cargo bikes saved many of them. Over 100.000 e-cargo bikes found their way into European delivery fleets between 2018 and 2020. Holland, the cycling capital of the world, currently has over 50.000 of them riding around. About 2000 cargo bikes were sold to UK businesses in 2020 according to the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BAGB), a 75% increase from the previous year. Raleigh’s UK managing director, Lee Kidger, predicts the UK cargo bike market will be 15 times its current levels within 5 years.
Using cargo bikes is a cheaper, quicker, cleaner, greener and healthier way of doing business. Recent estimates from Europe suggest that up to 51% of all freight journeys in cities could be replaced by cargo bikes[ii]. Besides this, research suggests that 66% of all journeys in the UK are under five miles, with more than half of those being completed by car or van. Imagine the change we could all bring about if we were to grab a bike for these trips. It could truly be revolutionary.
RideOn and I believe that real change is coming to the UK, as it is in other forward-thinking countries around Europe and the world. We are here to support the shift to a greener and brighter future and we hope you will join us. Check out our website, get in touch or come by the RideOn store in Penzance for a test ride on one of our many cargo bikes: we’ll be more than happy to tell you about all the possibilities.
With all my love, and well wishes from the cargo bikers of Holland,
If you enjoyed reading this article, you can read part two all about the benefits of e-cargo bikes.
[ii] Ersilia Verlinghieri at the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster