With emissions and congestion, a big concern, especially in major towns and cities, we’re wondering whether cycle couriers should exclusively be the way forward for deliveries in these areas?
Bike couriers aren’t a new thing; cycle freight in London for example has long been a way to get messages and parcels from A to B. On average, a cycle courier in London will cover around 17,000 miles a month weaving their way in and out of traffic to reach their destinations, and in many cases will deliver in quicker timeframes than their vehicle counterparts. Able to use bike-only routes and unfettered by parking restrictions and emission zones, even increased returns to the depot to re-load don’t stop a bike courier from being extremely effective in busier locations.
Whilst not intended as a complete replacement for trucks or vans (a bike courier is not going to be able to carry out an office move or courier a complete engine, for example), they have more than proven their worth when it comes to carrying smaller items such as documents or components.
Which type of bike?
Folding bikes are best, as these are allowed on most forms of transport including buses, trams and the Tube (London only). Non-folding bikes are more restricted, typically with specific times for travel outside of rush hours due to the space they take up.
Any courier using a bike needs one that has space for packages; these are usually bigger than a standard bike, almost tandem-length. Some cycle couriers use trikes instead (with 3 wheels offering a little more stability although they are wider and can cause more issues filtering through traffic) and some have small electric motors onboard, which are eco-friendly and help the rider negotiate hills with a loaded delivery.
Using a cargo bike instead of a diesel van will save on average 5 tons of CO2 each year; imagine that multiplied by even just 1,000 bikes in cities rather than vans. That’s 5,000 tons of CO2 saved; the equivalent of the emissions from 445,572 gallons of diesel, 768 homes worth of electricity usage in a year or 10,502 barrels of oil.
It has been predicted that, without any further change in how deliveries are made, the average city will see delivery vehicle emissions of 25 million tons of CO2 on an annual basis (that’s 2,227,860,265 gallons of diesel, 2,617,080 homes worth of electricity usage in a year, or 52,508,109 barrels of oil!)
Research from CCCB (CityChangerCargoBike) has shown that the use of cargo bikes has proven to be a safer option for many than using a vehicle on crowded metropolitan streets; cutting out larger vehicles should reduce fatal collisions by up to 14% each year (working on the assumption that all cyclists will take every measure to stay safe on the road).
Not every courier will want to turn to a bike to complete their round; it is certainly a role that requires an affinity with biking and fitness. For someone willing to take on that role, there are definitely health benefits to be had. This is a role that will burn a lot of fat and deliver a cardio workout at the same time; obviously route and individual consignment dependent.
In summary, we feel there is a definite gap for cycle couriers to become the new normal, especially for places like London where a lot of deliveries need to be made in a good timeframe on very congested streets.