Cargo bikes to support online ordering habits

Sales from online orders unsurprisingly skyrocketed during the pandemic, and as people filled up their virtual carts, our roads filled up with delivery drivers, increasing congestion and air pollution. 

Online shopping in Australia reached an all-time high last year, with online purchases growing 57% year-on-year. Meanwhile online traffic for Coles and Woolworths was up 189%, and Australian online grocery sales were up 45% in 2020 – increasing costs and CO2 emissions per food package delivered. 

While this was not as noticeable during lockdown, as our cities open up and many of our online ordering habits become ingrained, supporting sustainable logistic solutions will soon become a priority. 

A recent article in Forbes outlined how cargo bikes could be the best bet to secure sustainable urban food supply chains, while helping local communities and economies thrive and reduce emissions.

The article suggested that abandoning the old-fashioned van delivery service is required in order to decarbonise urban areas across Europe, with president of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), Henk Swarttouw stating: "“There is no other way cities can achieve their climate and emissions reductions goals because so much of urban emissions are coming from transport."

And though Europe's electric vehicle uptake is far higher than Australia's, Swarttouw still believes: “Making all the cars electric will take too long. 95% of the vehicles that are being sold today run on petrol or on diesel. And they will be on the road for another 15 or 20 years.” 

While electric vans will lower city emissions, they will not help cities deal with congestion or road safety. 

In Europe, a two-wheeled solution to freight delivery is already gathering momentum with the cargo bike market growing by 38.4% in 2020 and by 65.9% in 2021. These bikes are specifically designed for transporting loads, and with most cargo bikes now electric, they have the potential to revolusionise the logistics industry. 

A single cargo bike replacing a diesel transporter would save 5 tons of CO2 emissions, 51% of all motorized trips,” said Gary Armstrong from the European Cycle Logistics Federations (ECLF). And most of the times vans are driving around loaded to about 30% of their capacity. 

A study by the University of Southampton has found that cargo bikes complete urban delivery jobs up to 50% faster than small vans during peak weekday times, and would therefore help cities to avoid congestion.

Meanwhile data from Dutch food and drinks delivery company Nedcargo showed that deliveries on two wheels cost 18% less than when transported with lorries.

Switching the bulk of city distribution from motor vehicles to e-cargo bikes will of course require more spaces to ride. Swarttouw argues: "Segregated and wide bike lanes are the centerpiece of efficient cargo bikes services... If you make the network of bike lanes denser, it would be easier to deliver fresh products,"

And unlocking the potential of cargo bikes with better infrastructure will undoubtedly also help foster a general adoption of cycling. A win-win.

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