City centre logistics Cargo bikes in action – agile, flexible, emission-free

Cargo bikes are becoming increasingly important for commercial traffic. Not only do they make emission-free deliveries possible, they can also use very different routes and thus get through the traffic much faster.

Couriers of the Berlin company messenger drive e-cargo bikes. (Photo: Amac Garbe/DLR)

When Sille Kongstad cycles through Copenhagen with her cargo bike, she is a strange sight in this bike-crazy Danish capital. That is because Kongstad is an undertaker and transports coffins on her converted cargo bike. This very unusual example demonstrates the enormous range of possibilities for using cargo bikes. And this versatility is why they are becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to commercial traffic.

Congested roads, pollution, limited parking space – these are just a few of the issues that today’s modern city centres face. Alternative choices of mobility are urgently needed. This also applies to urban logistics – and that is where cargo bikes can be an important part of sustainable delivery solutions – with or without an electric motor.

Hermes commences TRIPL electric scooter trials

Hermes has been testing parcel delivery with the TRIPL electric scooter in Göttingen in collaboration with the Danish company EWII since May. With a load volume of 750 litres, this vehicle can transport 40 to 60 parcels. Not only does the electric scooter make emission-free deliveries, it can also use roads and lanes that are closed to conventional vans. This saves time and facilitates delivery.

Numerous other delivery services are increasingly using two-wheelers – from delivering pizza to your home and fruit to your office, to fresh fish for restaurants. This move is welcomed by a consumer group that is attaching more and more importance to environmentally acceptable delivery. Even craftsmen and other service providers are resorting to alternative vehicles, because they don’t want to spend their valuable time in traffic jams or looking for parking.

In Paris, for example, Vert chez Vous uses its 18 e-cargo bicycles in combination with a ship on the Seine, which acts as a floating mobile distribution centre. The e-cargo bicycles are loaded right on the ship and their batteries are topped up there. Several times a day, the e-cargo bicycles drive to the five jetties and receive their cargo.


Purchase of cargo bikes is supported by the local government

Political interest in cargo bikes is increasing. And that is small wonder, because a study that formed part of the EU project Cycle Logistics has shown that 50% of goods traffic in the city centre and 90% of private purchases could be made by bicycle. Numerous cities and local governments are now supporting the purchase of cargo bikes. The Ministry of Transport in Baden-Württemberg supports e-cargo bicycles for businesses, corporations and non-profit companies with up to 2,000 euros. In Berlin, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety is supporting the Velogut project, which offers companies in the capital cargo bikes free of charge for up to three months. And anyone who buys a cargo bike for private purposes in Munich, receives a subsidy of 1,000 euros.

The advantages over motor vehicles are obvious. In many city centres with heavy traffic, the average car speed is just over 20 kilometres per hour. Cargo bikes with electronic assistance often not only get through traffic faster, they can also use completely different routes.

A wide selection of manufacturers and models

Whereas there were only a few different cargo bikes a few years ago, companies have dozens of manufacturers and models to choose from today – from the agile delivery pedelec, which can do up to 15,000 kilometres a year, to heavy transporters that can carry up to 300 kilograms.

With a price tag from 3,000 euros upwards, however, buying a bike is anything but cheap. Companies should consider carefully whether and how cargo bikes can be integrated into their fleet – and which type of cargo bike is best suited to their needs. In the meantime, manufacturers and dealers are also offering vehicles for leasing. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics have researched whether a rental system for transport bikes could be established. They concluded that such a system would be useful, but difficult to finance through user fees alone.

As is often the case with alternative mobility concepts, it can only be successful if citizens, businesses and local government work together.

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