Cargo bike revolution: the cycle maker

This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 149.

Historic British brand Raleigh was the first UK cycle maker to market electrically-assisted bikes and is now providing e-cargo bikes for the Cambridge Try-Before-You-Buy scheme.

Raleigh told us why they think the time has come for a revolution in the use of e-cargo bikes.

1) New government policies have shown it’s time for a change of gear

The UK is just getting used to the electric bike – and to the electric cargo bike for urban freight – as a viable sustainable transport solution. For much of the population, cycling is still seen as a leisure activity, accounting for just 1% of mileage against 77% by car.

The government’s recent Gear Change document, which suggests redistribution of road space and investment in cycling infrastructure, should make the use of bikes more attractive. It also implies a nation-wide reimagining of how we move people and goods around.

Stir Bakery trialled one of the Raleigh e-cargo bikes from Outspoken Cycles

2) The growth in online deliveries demands a zero-emission solution

An estimated 3.2 billion parcels are delivered in the UK each year. Traditional delivery methods can be inefficient and costly with congestion and parking charges and declining average speeds in UK cities: London, for example, now has an average speed of around 9mph. With this year’s huge increase in online purchases, the demand for same day and next day delivery has never been higher.

It is estimated that around 25% of urban trips made by commercial vehicles could be replaced by e-cargo bikes to save time and money and help reduce carbon emissions. They can also help improve the wellbeing and fitness of the individual using the bike. Furthermore, unlike commercial vehicles, e-cargo bikes are still classed as cycles and can use the cycle and bus lanes to get around.

3) Consumers support sustainable transport

As consumers, we have never been more aware of our environmental impact. In a study by Forbes, 88% of consumers said they buy from brands that are more sustainable and 96% of those surveyed said they would pay more for sustainably sourced goods and services. Young people particularly want to make an impact.

Covid-19 has accelerated the need for more affordable and sustainable transport. Nottingham City Council has begun to operate a fleet of e-cargo bikes that are available to businesses on short-term loan. The loan is free of charge: a ‘try before you buy’ scheme to allow businesses to see if an e-cargo bike would benefit their business. Others, including Cambridge city and county councils are also trialling this initiative.

The success of Oxwash has shown that consumers support sustainable businesses.

4) A cargo-bike future can deliver new jobs and reduce costs on top of environmental benefits

The social, environmental and economic benefits are clear: zero emissions, reduced dependency on fossil fuel vehicles, substantially reduced operating costs and decreased energy consumption. The Nottingham project is underway using Raleigh’s new e-cargo bikes, and has created new jobs at the Raleigh electric vehicle hub where apprentices maintain the bikes.

Electric cargo bikes could play a vital role in a new zero emission future. The cycle industry needs to work together with other industries including rail, fleet and logistics to make fundamental changes. This more sustainable future could include out-of-town hubs where deliveries are sorted before delivery to, or transferred to long-distance carriers after collection from, the local addresses. These first and last mile deliveries and collections in urban areas could dramatically improve air quality, create jobs and be more efficient whilst reducing costs.

Find out more about Raleigh’s e-cargo bike options on their website.