Published: 23rd APRIL 2020

Providing emergency food deliveries by cargo bike

Giulia Colafrancesco is our project delivery assistant at the Stockton Hub. We caught up with her to hear all about the amazing ways the team are supporting those who need it most during the COVID-19 lockdown. They've all come together to deliver emergency food parcels to the local community by cargo bike.

The Hub in Stockton-on-Tees is usually a busy active travel and cycle parking centre at the heart of the community.

We run regular group led rides and walks, provide bike maintenance and recondition old bikes.

During COVID-19 The Hub is closed but we decided to adapt our service, using the two cargo bikes and panniers stored here to help with emergency deliveries.

Working together to support the community

We teamed up with the local authority and other local organisations to help distribute food parcels to isolated and vulnerable people in the community.

The parcels include essential basic food such as flour, bread, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, as well as canned food, fruit and vegetables.

The daily routine

We start the morning by making the Hub safe, disinfecting door handles and surfaces.

By 10 am our 15 food parcels arrive and it's time to get stuck in.

We disinfect all plastic bags that contain the food, the kitchen in the Hub and the bikes that we will be using for the deliveries.

Later we receive our list of contacts from Stockton Borough Council. This coordinates the food procurement alongside local voluntary organisations such as Little Sprouts and the Moses Project.

By lunchtime, we’re all set to start delivering.

We usually manage to fit four parcels (roughly 7kg of food each) into two cargo bikes and one on a bike with panniers.

The team load up the bikes with 15 fresh food parcels to be delivered to vulnerable people in the community.

Manoeuvring a fully-loaded cargo bike it is not so easy, especially with almost 30kg of groceries on the back.

People stare at the cargo bikes as if we're driving a space ship!

Following guidance to keep everyone safe

During the deliveries, we each carry at least four pairs of protective gloves in our pockets to handle the food parcels each time with fresh gloves.

We leave the parcel at the door and take a few steps back before the person opens the door to maintain social distancing.

We have a quick chat and check we’re delivering to the right address.

Local deliveries are efficient by bike

It is a pleasure to cycle around when it is so quiet and there are not many cars on the road. And bikes are such an efficient method of local delivery.

I really like that we were able to use our resources and skills to help provide an essential service. It also brings back a bit of socialising into our day-to-day.

Looking after each other right now is crucial

The whole team have had lots of thanks from people, and the general public seems to really like the idea too.

When receiving parcels, people are all very grateful for this service.

And although they might be naturally a bit on their guard when they first answer the door, they light up when they understand what we're doing for them.

I got spontaneous applause from a neighbour on one street where I delivered a parcel to a man.

And an old lady called my colleague an angel when he chatted to her for five minutes over the fence. She hadn’t talked to anyone in the three weeks she had been on lockdown.

Shopping by bike is easy once you've given it a go

Once you’re used to it, it’s really easy to pick up your shopping on a regular bike.

And you can easily get enough food for four households on a cargo bike.

In the future, I would love for volunteers to use our cargo bikes and panniers for their personal use or to help neighbours and friends with their weekly shopping.

If you're a key worker and want to cycle to work during the pandemic, take a look at our new Cycles for key workers map for offers and discounts in your area.

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