Cargo bikes can carry large loads and bulky items around towns and cities very quickly, and thanks to new technology such as pedal-assistance, they are fast becoming a more reliable and accessible means for businesses to make deliveries.
Today more and more traders are using cargo bikes to enhance their business, or are establishing new ventures around this recently resurgent means of haulage and travel.
Delivered by cargo bike
For many businesses that make deliveries locally, using a cargo bike can be hugely beneficial. Local deliveries made by cargo bike take no longer than a car or van, and are far more cost-effective compared to journeys made in a commercial vehicle.
Mark’s Bread is an award-winning bakery and café based in Bristol. It is one of the few businesses in the city centre which delivers to local restaurants by cargo bike and has been doing so for nearly ten years.
Mark Newman, the founder of Mark’s Bread, spoke to us about how his business is taking advantage of making deliveries by cargo bike:
“We’ve been using a cargo bike to deliver freshly baked bread to customers ever since we first opened our doors. The first one I bought was a Dutch-style bicycle but we outgrew this as the business expanded. So I decided to have a bespoke model made to suit our business needs. We wanted a bicycle that was as efficient as possible and was able to transport a large amount of produce, so had a motor integrated into the design as well as a huge box at the front to carry all of our bread.”
Cargo bike deliveries are also getting attention from big retailers. In April 2018 Sainsbury’s started to trial the UK’s first grocery delivery service by electric cargo bike, delivering 100 orders a day and reducing carbon emissions at the same time.
Cargo bike benefits for businesses
“ The cargo bike is extremely useful for transporting food and for deliveries. In some instances it has been faster than driving and better for the planet too. ”
Not only does using a cargo bike benefit air quality and the environment around us, it can also greatly benefit your business:
1. Low maintenance costs
One advantage bicycles have over other forms of transportation is the low cost to keep them running. Compared to other commercial vehicles, the difference is massive. Maintaining a cargo bike doesn't cost much more than it would for a regular bicycle; approximately £350 per year should cover maintenance, labour and parts.
As with any other mechanical equipment if you keep it well maintained (m-checks, keeping tyres pumped, cleaning and oiling chain, basic adjustments) it will prolong the life of your bicycle and that in itself will be more cost-effective.
Also considering you won’t have to pay road tax on the bicycle itself, or buy petrol/diesel to fuel it, there are many savings to be made.
Reducing the cost of your delivery service could allow you to pass the savings on to your customers and enable you to offer more competitive prices. The cheap cost of bicycle deliveries could also give you more flexibility to reduce the size of your minimum orders and potentially reach a wider customer base.
2. Employees who cycle are healthier and happier
By promoting active travel, employers can demonstrate corporate social responsibility whilst improving staff wellbeing. Employees will benefit from the daily exercise they incorporate into their working day.
The benefit of having a happy healthy workforce is that your employee's health and wellbeing will improve, and as a result they are likely to be more motivated and productive. It is also likely that your employee retention will improve as a result of this.
Mark said of his staff cycling:
“I think all my staff would agree that it’s far more fun making deliveries on a bicycle than it is being stuck in traffic in a metal box. We have three very keen cyclists and they love travelling around Bristol on two wheels, interacting with passers-by and taking in the sights in-between deliveries. It also goes without saying that using a bicycle to deliver food to local restaurants is a great way for staff to build exercise into their everyday routines."
3. Faster deliveries
Deliveries made by cargo bike can be made at more convenient times as during peak hours bicycles can take advantage of cycle lanes in order to avoid peak traffic (midweek mornings). Finding a space to park your cargo bike can often be much easier than with a commercial vehicle, and also likely to be closer to your customers home.
4. Great PR
Customers nowadays are very aware of environmental issues, and showing that your business is responsive to these concerns can be a competitive advantage.
“Getting noticed in today’s crowded marketplace isn’t easy, but using a cargo bike has definitely brought in new custom, as people view Mark’s Bread as an ethical brand that they want to keep purchasing from. We’ve had lots of positive feedback from customers and people on the street who notice staff making their deliveries. After all, it’s hard to miss a large cargo bike coming down the street!"
Running a business means that you have many responsibilities to your employees and the general public, and there are things you need to think carefully about before your business starts using a cargo bike. Here are some important considerations:
Look into insurance and public liability insurance to cover business usage of cargo bikes.
It is advisable to perform a risk assessment in the same way you would for a commercial vehicle driver.
We strongly recommend that you offer your employees cargo bike cycle training. We currently offer training in Scotland on a case by case basis and in London.
Parking and storage
Parking and storage are very important considerations once you have acquired a cargo bike in order to protect your investment from theft or damage.
We recommend that you secure your bike using a Sold Secure Gold approved D-lock. Lock the cargo bike up as you would a standard bicycle (in a well-lit area, secure to the ground stand and remember to not leave the battery in the bicycle for pedal-assisted models). We also have further advice on bicycle security on our website.
We recommend that you store your cargo bike indoors or at a secure location like you would with any bicycle. Cargo bikes are heavy, so a ground floor is preferable for storage and you may need a wider access door.
We can help you make the most of cargo bikes
There are plenty of benefits to using a cargo bike for your business, and we can offer support in some areas of the country to businesses getting started with a cargo bike.
We are currently providing training for a business in South London to make the swap to cargo bike deliveries. In Scotland, we have the Bike Library project, whereby businesses in Edinburgh can borrow a cargo bike for free. One business that has made the most of this opportunity is Bross bagels, they said of the project:
‘The cargo bike is extremely useful for transporting food and for deliveries. In some instances, it has been faster than driving and better for the planet too’.