A PedalMe bike loaded up with cargo (Photo: Euston Food Bank)
While the press likes to talk about drone deliveries, a visit to the ‘Freight in the City’ Exhibition in London last week confirmed that another, more down-to-Earth delivery solution, is quietly gaining significant traction: the cargo bike. A series of fleets have now been deployed in several UK cities as well as across Europe.
DHL, which is a significant user of cargo bikes in Germany, also carries out some of its last mile parcel deliveries in both London and Manchester by cargo bike. In Manchester it has three bikes delivering on dense, inner city routes each day, achieving 10-12+ stops per hour.
Leading same day courier, CitySprint, has a fleet of 25 Bullitt bikes in London. With a capacity of up to 100kg, the company emphasises that they are able to take as much as a small van.
PedalMe, which offers both passenger and freight services, uses modified Urban Arrow bikes which are able to take 2 adult passengers or up to 150kg in cargo. The company reports that it does a lot of work for food and beverage companies. One of its advantages is that, because bikes are quicker than vans at getting through London traffic, it has been able to extend the delivery range of its customers: for example it can deliver warm food from a restaurant in the East End to Shepherd’s Bush in half an hour. Both its passenger and freight services work via an Uber-style booking app.
The largest UK fleet is probably Zedify, which has around 100 cargo bikes and trikes – which can take payloads of up to quarter of a tonne – in Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Norwich.
We expect growth to continue. PedalMe is on a very sharp trajectory (growing at 24% per month from an admittedly low base) and reports having to turn lots of business away. It is currently crowdfuding, and has already raised enough money to place orders doubling its fleet from current level of 12 to 24 by February. City Sprint reports that its fleet is flat out doing 4,000 jobs per month, and has also just started a trial 2-hour cargo bike delivery service with Waitrose. And the announcement in September by Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, of £2m of government money being made available to encourage the take-up of electric cargo bikes should help further when it kicks in.