Smart Transport

Webinar: How to make e-cargo bikes more sustainable (watch now)

Shared ownership/use of electric bikes and e-cargo bikes has an important role to play in driving uptake and boosting sustainability.

A shared approach can reduce costs and therefore give a wider variety of people and businesses the opportunity to use e-cargo bikes, and ultimately reduce the carbon impact. 

That was the key message from the third and final webinar in Smart Transport’s Active Travel series, held in association with Smart Transport member Raleigh.

Four experts: Ed Pegram, commercial partnership manager at Raleigh; Kevin Mayne, CEO of Cycling Industries Europe; Rob King, co-founder and CEO of Zedify, a network of zero emission delivery operators; and Sarah Kumeta, senior innovation officer at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), shared their insight on electric bikes and e-cargo bikes during the session, which was chaired by Beat Kubitz, a transport consultant and director at Cargodale, an e-cargo bike delivery service in West Yorkshire.

Both Mayne and King highlighted the cost of electric bikes as a barrier to entry for businesses and individuals, with Mayne saying that “you cannot magic thousands of pounds into someone’s pocket if they just can’t afford the initial outlay”.

“So leasing, sharing, being able to buy a service off a third party so you can access this service is crucial,” he said.

King pointed out that in Cambridge, where Zedify originated, there are a number of dealerships he could go to if he wanted to lease an electric van but there are very few options for e-cargo bikes.

When Zedify was able to find some lease providers for e-cargo bikes they were charging three times the rate of an electric van “because they didn’t understand the asset”.

He said that local authorities have a role to play in overcoming those barriers by offering shared schemes and finance arrangements, along with improving infrastructure and building capacity.

Pegram has worked on various projects to introduce e-cargo bikes into cities, including in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and Cambridge. He believes that shared ownership is the way forward.

He said that there is “an emerging requirement for e-cargo bikes to be a shared asset” as it can make the bikes “really cost effective”.

In Nottingham, for example, a crowd-funded e-cargo bike will become a shared asset for a number of businesses, with use of the e-cago bike managed through an app.  

Manchester is planning to have 25 e-cargo bikes and 10 electric vehicles in three locations: Bury, South Manchester, and Ancoats from this summer as part of the EU-funded eHUBS project.

Kumeta said: “We hope by doing this we’ll be able to get more people used to using e-cargo bikes.

“It’s still quite a new form of micro mobility and it encourages people to be able to use them on a lease basis.”

E-cargo bike training 

The panellists highlighted the importance of training for those new to e-cargo bikes.

TfGM has been working with its e-cargo bike provider to produce a safety video which people will need to watch before renting an e-cargo bike to make them aware of how it is different to a normal bike.

The mobility hubs will be in residential areas, away from busy roads so that users can become familiar with them before having to go onto more complex roads.

TfGM plans to hold a number of open days (depending on Covid-19 restrictions) to give people the chance to try the e-cargo bikes before renting them.

Raleigh has been offering trials of e-cargo bikes on quiet roads, as well as working with training providers to offer instructions to businesses and local authorities that are looking to introduce e-cargo bikes.

Zedify expects its riders to demonstrate that they are an experienced urban cyclist by having the highest level in national standards training before they can join the business.

All undergo a two-three hour orientation programme covering the differences between a cargo bike and an ordinary bike, such as stopping distances, visibility, and the braking and electric systems; hazard awareness; where to use them as not all cycle paths are appropriate; and parking.

It includes practical experience with real deliveries and online tests.

Scaling up must be done in a sustainable way

Pegram pointed out that bike manufacturers must scale up to meet demand “in a sustainable way”.

“The bicycle and the cargo bike is a fantastic entity that is zero emissions and low carbon, and actually the biggest carbon impact comes from the supply chain,” he said.

“While we do want to scale up, and we certainly will to meet demand, we do need to do it in the right way.”

Kubitz added that this was how a shared approach could also be beneficial as greater utilisation of e-cargo bikes would mean fewer needed to be manufactured. 

Video: Watch our webinar

Coverage of the previous Active Travel webinar sessions can be found here:  

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