A lot is happening in the cargo bike sector, with sales increasing and sharing programs and subsidies from governments playing a significant role in reducing emissions from transportation. The European Cyclists’ Federation has created an online overview of this sector, from which we’ve highlighted some key points. In Austria, the sharing program in communities is being expanded by Radverteiler, a member of the Cycle Competence network. We provide data from Lower Austria and offer tips for communities.
Sharing Insights from St. Pölten
In 2022, five communities in Austria were equipped with smart rental boxes from Radverteiler to make e-cargobikes accessible to the population around the clock. This was made possible by the “eTransport 24/7” project of the KlimaEntLaster consortium, funded by the Climate and Energy Fund. In addition to Wiener Neustadt, Pinkafeld, Leonding, and Wolfsberg, an e-cargo bike was offered in the town square in St. Pölten in cooperation with Cycle Competence member Radland Niederösterreich and the city administration, and it was very well-used:
The percentage distribution of cargo bike rentals over the months shows that both hot and cold months are at the top of the statistics. Weather was not the determining factor, and cargobike sharing also works in winter! 60% of the kilometers traveled with the cargobike in Sankt Pölten were covered on days with temperatures between zero and 10 degrees Celsius.
The survey of cargobike renters showed that children and shopping were the primary items transported, often both at the same time!
Equipping the bike with an anti-theft tracker also made it possible to analyze anonymized trip data on speed, distance traveled, and active usage time during rental periods. This graph shows the average speed achieved, which is just under 20 km/h (blue line). The cargo bike is equipped with a pedelec motor which has a 25 km/h assistance limit. In total, 97 rental transactions took place.
Smart Rental Box in Action
The smart rental box, together with the online platform radverteiler.at, allows for the rental of an e-cargobike around the clock via smartphone and provides space for an e-bike charger, battery, and a key for the bikelock. With a simple 230 volt connection in the box, the bike’s battery can be charged between rentals. This overcomes a hurdle that can otherwise only be solved by larger sharing systems through battery exchange services or charging stations.
Tips for municipalities with cargo bike sharing:
The insights gained from the one-year project “eTransport 24/7” are diverse and are available as a brief guide (german) for download.
- Cargo bike rental itself is autonomous, but operation requires resources: For the operators of a rental station, the cargo distributor box does not require an on-site presence of a person. However, time, financial, and personnel resources are required for customer services, support for breakdowns, maintenance of the online platform, bike maintenance, and important marketing of the service.
- Central and visible locations: The visibility of the rental station in public space is a crucial criterion for the success of a sharing service. A central location like the town square in St. Pölten, where rental numbers were very good, raises the importance of the service in the community.
- Good things take time and advertising: To establish and gain acceptance for the sharing service, patience and, above all, continuous awareness work in the community are needed. A variety of publicity formats should be used in communicating to the community or at events involving the cargo bike.
- Evaluation proves helpful: Monitoring rental numbers through reservation data from the platform or GPS trackers enables appropriate measures to be taken for the optimal use of the rental box and cargo bike. If the rental of a cargo bike is not successful, it may be due to the location, lack of information about the service, or role models.
- Cargo biking is possible in all weathers: The evaluation showed that the cargo bike is also popular on cooler days. Rain covers protect children and cargo from weather and sun.
- Cargo bike sharing services help with CO2 reduction: Establishing a cargo bike sharing service in a municipality is a contribution to climate protection. In 50% of rentals, the cargo bike replaced a car trip, as our survey showed!
European overview from 125 cities:
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), the umbrella organization for national cycling initiatives in Europe, is providing an analysis tool for the first time to support cargo biking in European cities. The online dashboard was launched in late February 2023 and includes criteria such as funding, sharing services, and cargo bike projects. With this tool, policymakers, manufacturers, and mobility initiatives can compare cities. It can be accessed at ecf.com and also shows Austrian sample cities:
Vienna: The purchase subsidies for private individuals and businesses are listed for Vienna, totaling €2.5 million since 2017, allowing the purchase of more than 1,380 cargo bikes. The info button indicates that these subsidies can be combined with those from klimaaktiv mobil. This federal funding from the Ministry of Climate Protection supported a total of around 4,300 cargo bikes, mostly with electric assistance, in 2021 and 2022. Both subsidies exist in 2023 and can be combined up to €2,000.
Salzburg: Salzburg was able to purchase 161 cargo bikes by distributing €140,000 in subsidies to private individuals. Both Vienna and Salzburg list the existing cargo bike sharing services, with Radverteiler represented in both cities. In Vienna, Cycle Competence member Fahrrad Wien offers the Grätzelrad system.
Cologne: A similarly high number of cargo bikes were purchased in the german city Cologne as in Vienna through subsidies: 1,350 bikes have been co-financed so far by a funding amount of €3.4 million. The amount was €1.4 million higher than in Vienna. In the autumn of 2022, Cologne launched a sharing pilot with 15 cargo bikes as part of the nextbike/TIER-operated municipal bike-sharing system KVB-Rad. In the first half of 2023, a decision will be made about expanding the cargo bike sharing service to the entire city with 200 cargo bikes.
Details about the evaluation (above) of the Radverteiler sharing scheme:
- Final evaluation of the bicycle distribution location in St. Pölten, Town Square.
- Evaluation by TU Vienna – move, Aurelia Kammerhofer, 23.2.2023, in cooperation with Factum, Die Radvokaten, Energy-Climate GmbH, and quadratic.
- Data provided by quadratic via the radverteiler.at reservation platform.
- Anonymised GPS data from powunity trackers via Radland Niederösterreich.
- Tracked routes between 15.08.22 – 06.02.23
- Reservations between 01.06.22 – 31.01.23
- Survey of users between 01.06.22 – 31.02.23
- All data in the report here (german)