The transport revolution: Cargo bikes on the advance

The use of bicycles for goods transport has made it onto the traffic agenda in many European cities. This also showed at the CycleLogistics conference in Vienna in March and the cargo bike subsidy introduced by the city. Projects like CycleLogistics and EMILIA demonstrate the scope of the potential for transport by bicycle. They also point out how transport processes can be optimized the smart way. The former niche topic has become mainstream. The potential for shifting from car to cargo bike is enormous. The “Cargo Bike Boom” has certainly taken off!

Logistics sector needs CycleLogistics

Cycle Competence member FGM-Amor has been a driving force behind the growing use of cargo bikes in European cities for the last seven years in its role as coordinator of the two EU projects CycleLogistics and CycleLogistics Ahead. The logistics sector is called upon to make use of the existing potentials in the areas of goods transport (23% according to DLR study in which FGM also participated, 25% according to CycleLogistics baseline study and 33% according to the latest study by the TU Nürnberg commissioned by the German logistics industry). This means that every third or fourth delivery van trip can be switched to pedal power.


An even higher potential for switching from  car to a cargo bike was noted for service providers and craftsmen. For them, the CycleLogistics baseline study showed that every other car trip could be shifted to a bicycle. But the highest potential is in private logistics: 77% of all car trips for goods transport (e.g. shopping) could be done by bicycle, bicycle trailer or cargo bike.


The potential to shift goods transport from cars to cargo bikes according to the Cycle Logistics Baseline Study

Once child transport is added to the already high potential for goods transport, we arrive at similar figures to those in Copenhagen where every fourth family has a cargo bike. To give a push in that direction some cities decided on promotion programs – among them Vienna, where FGM helped draw up the subsidy framework. In total, 300.000 euros in public funds will be invested in 2017 to promote the purchase of cargo bikes by private persons and companies in the Austrian capital: The first subsidy batch of 200.000 euros was gone so quickly that a 50% top-up was immediately agreed on. This means that within a very short time span knock-on financing for around 300 cargo bikes for Vienna was granted.

Cargo bike conference in Vienna

Also in Vienna the fourth CycleLogistics conference ECLF 2017 took place in March. Susanne Wrighton (FGM), member of the organization team, was happy about more than 400 visitors. The rising number of participants at the conferences in Cambridge (80), Nijmegen (180) and San Sebastian (250) confirm the increasing importance of the topic.

The FGM is already working on the next step in cargo bike use: On the one hand, Susanne Wrighton is taking part in developing European procurement rules by integrating cargo bike delivery. On the other hand, the cargo bike was put in focus as a “parking space transformer” within the framework of a Horizon 2020 entry. The name of the project entry “City Changer Cargo Bike” says it all.


An exceptionally practical cargo bike model that can serve as such a City Changer is the Vienna model “Truck” by Cycle Competence member MCS Maderna Cycle Systems. The single-track low-loader is an all-rounder – developed for professional use by delivery services and craftsmen. The extremely torsion-resistant frame and the low, large loading platform behind the rider render the MCS Truck stable, manoeuvrable and safe even when heavily loaded. This is also demonstrated in this video with a total load of 170kg.


Smart optimization methods for use in freight logistics

Researchers at Cycle Competence member AIT Austrian Institute of Technology are developing logistics concepts in the project EMILIA to improve efficiency, sustainability and customer service in freight logistics. The methods for planning and organization of transport processes with electric vehicles and cargo bikes developed in the project allow forward planning as well as real time calculations of deliveries in freight logistics. For example, express orders of food have to be delivered within 60 minutes maximum. To ensure this, online orders are sorted into cargo bike trips in advance with customers being supplied within their preferred delivery window from the closest branch. Additionally, cargo bike trips are planned with such flexibility that express orders can be fit in. For each express it is individually decided which cargo bike goes to which branch to ensure the fastest and most cost efficient customer service. The planning tool developed by the AIT is based on optimization algorithms from the area of Operations Research. They allow the best possible use of the cargo bikes to minimize time of travel and to supply customers in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

For package delivery a two-step system is used: First the packages are being delivered to a City Hub in electric vehicles. Particularly heavy or bulky orders are being delivered directly to the customer. From the City Hub cargo bikes with e-motors are taking on the so-called “Last Mile” delivery. A smartphone app helps the riders to find the optimum route by visualizing the delivery sequence and the best roads. The more rural the environment the more pronounced the advantages of a powerful, manoeuvrable cargo bike with considerable cargo space: Cycle lanes can be used and cargo bikes can ride up directly to a house or store entrance. This means short walks rendering package delivery by cargo bike fast and efficient – and emissions-free.


Tipp: The presentations from the cargo bike conference ECLF 2017 are available for download from the conference website.

Posted on April 27, 2017