The Financial Times (behind paywall) reports that the pre-Christmas season has been a busy one for London cargobike couriers:
When messengers from Creative Couriers in north London were delivering seasonal gifts in the run-up to Christmas, the vehicle involved was often as eye-catching as the present. Instead of conventional vans or traditional messengers, many of the deliveries were whisked around London on eye-catching, 2.4m long bikes mounted with huge cargo boxes.
The deliveries are among a growing number made around London with specially built cargo bikes designed to carry far more than conventional commuter models. The trend is driven partly by individual couriers upgrading from normal bikes to earn more per trip. Some delivery companies, meanwhile, have shifted from vans to bikes more able to navigate the capital’s congested streets.
Bill Chidley, a former bike courier who is now a dispatcher for Creative, says cargo bikes are cheaper than vans and get through “a lot more work”.
“We would have been tied up for weeks in Christmas work [without them],” Mr Chidley says.
Cargobikes sales to business have doubled in the past three years according to London Green Cycles, the specialist shop in Central London; and users include major International couriers such as DHL and TNT, whereas UPS
plans to introduce electrically powered trailers that can be hauled on foot or by bike
The article adds a note of caution:
Sam Clarke, managing director of Gnewt Cargo, a London delivery business that started, purely bike-based, in 2009, says his company found even the biggest box on a cargo bike too small. Gnewt now mostly uses electric vans. “We simply could not get enough on to cycle freight to deliver the volume and productivity per driver that’s required,” Mr Clarke says.
Naturally the improvement on congestion is achieved at the margins. Even a 20% switch from vans to cargobikes would have a tremendous impact on congestion and air quality.
Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for surface transport of Transport for London, says cargo bikes can be an “important part of the mix” in deliveries, albeit mainly for final delivery of smaller packages.
“We will be looking at their role as we develop the new mayor’s transport strategy,” he says.
Image by Scott Hortop Travel/Alamy