The Benefits of Electric Cargo Bikes (Part Two)

February 21, 2022 by Ride On in Article, Industry News

I love home deliveries as much as anybody out there. There are days that I will use Gorillas to deliver me breakfast, Zapp to deliver me toilet paper and a cheeky pack of cigarettes when I run out mid-day, Amazon for a gift for my sister and then Uber Eats for my dinner. Sometimes I wonder if this makes me an idiot or just plain lazy. It’s probably a combination of both, but thankfully I don’t really care!

My friends and I (let’s call us “the Millenials”) experience days when we simply don’t have the time to go shopping. Other days we simply don’t want to leave the house. I count myself lucky that I live in a world where it is possible to have everything that I can dream of delivered straight to my doorstep and I applaud every company that offers this as a service. I don’t think I’m the only one in Amsterdam, or Europe for that matter, who loves the convenience and is more than willing to pay a premium fee for it. But I only love it if it comes by bike.

A day out in Amsterdam will prove it: cargo bikes are everywhere, whizzing past with delivery after delivery, from the break of dawn till midnight. 100.000 of them were introduced onto the streets of Europe between 2018 and 2020. Holland alone has over 50.000 of them flying around right now.

The cargo bike seems inextricably bound to the future of e-commerce. Generation Y might be lazy, but we’re also eco-conscious. There is no way that I would want the city to be buzzing with cars and vans but I’ll happily tolerate some mad youngsters on e-bikes. Governments around the world seem to agree. Europe has seen a clear trend in transport policy to address the negative impacts of motor transport: Cars and vans are out, and the bike is IN. Air quality, congestion, CO2 emissions, road danger, noise and lowered quality of life are just some of the downsides that we can no longer ignore. The constant growth of e-commerce and its logistics operations contribute heavily to the impact we have on the world and carbon offsetting is no longer seen as a long-term solution for climate change. Real behavioural change is needed to sustain us, and the change seems to have come in the shape of an eco-friendly cargo bike.

Here’s an overview of the reasons why companies such as Freddie’s Flowers, Amazon, DHL, UPS, Fedex, Zapp, Gorillas, Uber Eats, Domino’s and many other smaller companies have switched to cycle logistics.

ELECTRIC CARGO BIKES SAVE MONEY
Research by Transport for London states that vans are on average only 38% full. About 40% of vans are less than a quarter full, making an Urban Arrow cargo bike, with a potential load capacity of 250 kg, a direct competitor. It costs about 1p a mile to power an electric bike, a fraction of the cost of using a traditional diesel van. Analysis has shown that deliveries on two wheels can cost up to 90% less than with a van or lorry[i]. E-cargo bikes are free from ever-rising fuel costs, congestion charges, parking costs and fines, Ultra Low Emissions Zone charges, vehicle taxes and hefty insurance fees. Though electric cargo bikes aren’t cheap, they still require a considerably lower upfront investment than a car or van. Subsidies, government incentives, grants and tax cuts further seal the deal for anyone looking to save money.

DELIVERIES BY BIKE SAVE TIME
E-cargo bikes are up to 60% quicker than vans in city centres. Drop off speed is around 10 parcels an hour for an e-cargo bike, compared to 6 an hour with a van. Cargo bikes bypass traffic jams, take shortcuts through streets closed to through traffic, make deliveries into any Clean Air Zone and go straight to the customer’s door. A cargo bike can outperform a traditional van in every test scenario where delivery distances and parcel sizes are small. Making it possible for companies such as Gorillas to offer groceries that are delivered to your doorstep within 10 minutes.

E-CARGO BIKES REDUCE YOUR CO2 EMISSIONS
Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, causing around 400.000 premature deaths per year[i]. When you look at the emissions map of the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory[ii], it becomes clear that towns like Penzance perform no better than London. Nearby Bristol is even one of England’s worst polluted cities. Cycling saves 16 million tons of CO2 per year in the EU.[iii] E-cargo bikes can save up to 4 tonnes of CO2 over a 100-day period, or up to 90% compared to diesel vans, and up to a third compared to electric vans.[iv] DHL express reports that every cargo bike they purchase saves them 101.000 kg of CO2 emissions annually. According to the EPA, that’s the same as the yearly emissions of 22 passenger cars. The carbon footprint of the manufacture of a diesel van alone is the same as 100.000 miles done on an Urban Arrow e-cargo bike.

CLEANER AIR AND WATER
Transport vehicles emit gases and substances which might not have a significant greenhouse gas effect but do have significant health consequences for humans and animals alike. The biggest air pollutants are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). Fine particulate matter from brake and tyre wear of motor vehicles doesn’t only pollute the air, but also causes microplastic marine pollution. Using electric vans and cars does not mitigate this problem. Transport contributed a substantial portion of these air pollutants to the UK’s domestic total: 34% of NOx emissions, 13% of PM2.5 emissions, and 11% of PM10 emissions came from transport in 2019.

LESS TRAFFIC
Electric vans might seem like a viable alternative but only 4% of the vans on the road are currently electric. The other 96% run on petrol or diesel and will be on the road for another 15-20 years. Replacing all of them still wouldn’t solve the most pressing urban mobility problem, traffic. Besides this, vans and HGVs were involved in one in three fatal collisions in London between 2015 to 2017.

EMPLOYEE HEALTH
Engaging in moderate physical activity like e-biking will benefit the rider enormously, improving physical fitness, strength and alertness at work. Cycling lowers blood sugar levels, aids weight loss, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 29% and lower cognitive decline by about 26%.[i] Cycling helps to maintain your memory, as it builds new brain cells in the hippocampus. It has also been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Adults who cycle to work or use it for everyday purposes have a 30% lower morbidity rate than comparable persons.[ii] The city of Copenhagen alone reports 1.1 million fewer sick days annually thanks to its cyclists[iii]. Employers around the EU save almost 5 billion Euro[iv] per year in sick days thanks to cycling employees. If you make cities more bike friendly, you don’t just get the emissions reductions; you get the liveability and the enormous health benefits. These add up to over 60 billion Euro in total benefits a year for Europe.

MENTAL HEALTH
Cargo biking strengthens the psyche, reduces stress, and brightens the mood. The physical act of pedalling promotes the release of serotonin and endorphins, reduces cortisol levels and has a calming effect. It has been linked to 17% lower odds of developing depression and it promotes social interaction, wherever you go. Users of cargo bikes are relaxed and feel no need to decompress after their commute, a vast difference from their mental state after sitting in a car in city traffic.

With all my love, and well wishes from the cargo bikers of Holland,

COMPANY IMAGE
Inefficient delivery can damage the image of a business, as we’re all familiar with vans causing traffic jams when they block the road to make a stop. Cycling around town with a personalised, branded cargo bike however, smiling at all your prospective clients along your way, is a great way of connecting with a town in a positive way and establishing yourself as a forward-thinking company that cares about the town it operates in. All of RideOn’s cargo bikes can be personalised with your branding to turn every trip into a marketing opportunity.

THE REVOLUTION
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[i]. Besides this, 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 want to support you in making the transition so feel free to get in touch with any questions you might have, we’ll be more than happy to tell you about all the possibilities. My challenge to you: borrow a bike for a free test ride, if only for half an hour. You will be amazed at how easily and safely you move in traffic. It’s up to you whether you will do that more often, but we are hooked and we think you will be too.

With all my love, and well wishes from the cargo bikers of Holland,

Nicole


[1] Cyclingindustry.news

[1] European Environmental Agency, Air quality in Europe — 2018 report.

[1] https://naei.beis.gov.uk/emissionsapp/

[1] www.heatwalkingcycling.org, Ricke et. al. (2018): Country-level social cost of carbon, Nature Climate Change volume 8, pages 895–900

[1] Pedalme.co.uk

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/05/cargo-bikes-deliver-faster-and-cleaner-than-vans-study-finds

[1] Guure et. al. 2017: Impact of Physical Activity on Cognitive Decline, Dementia, and Its Subtypes: Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies + Schuch et. al. 2018: Physical Activity and Incident Depression: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies

[1] https://fietsberaad.nl/CROWFietsberaad/media/Kennis/Bestanden/Bicycle-statistics-from-Denmark.pdf?ext=.pdf

[1] https://fietsberaad.nl/CROWFietsberaad/media/Kennis/Bestanden/Bicycle-statistics-from-Denmark.pdf?ext=.pdf

[1] Hendriksen et. al. 2010: The association between commuter cycling and sickness absence.

[1] European Cyclists’ Federation CEO Jill Warren. [1] Ersilia Verlinghieri at the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster