Electric cargo bikes deliver about 60% faster than vans in city centres, according to a study. It found that bikes had a higher average speed and dropped off 10 parcels an hour, compared with six for vans.– The Guardian (Reference)
f you don’t live in one of the world’s bike havens, then I guarantee all your deliveries go something like this: the post office receives your letters or packages. They load it in a big truck. And then that big truck drives to your mailbox and drops your stuff off. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But there’s another way that’s been gaining a lot of support lately. I’m not talking about Amazon’s creepy drones either. I mean bicycles.
In many cities, the idea of bicycle couriers is getting more and more popular. At first glance, it doesn’t seem all that practical; bikes are small and compact, and run on pedalling power.
How useful can they be for deliveries? But Copenhagen has proven they are just as effective for deliveries as cars, even for delivering bigger items like TV’s and computers.
You see, there’s a neat little thing called a cargo bike. It’s a bicycle designed for carrying cargo (thanks, captain obvious!). You might be surprised at what these bikes can handle. And the best part is, in cities with bike lanes, bikes are often a faster form of transportation.
Still not convinced that cargo bikes are better than trucks? Below are 14 points that will change your mind.
1 – Cargo bikes can handle almost anything
You would think that a bicycle delivery service would only be able to handle small loads. But actually bike couriers can carry loads over 200kg without any problems.
See, some cargo bikes are fitted with a small electric motor that gives them a little kick to help the cyclists get up to speed and conquer hills with ease.
When it comes to inter-city deliveries, unless you’re ordering a fridge or a couch, a cargo bike is your best option; it’s just as reliable as a truck, with a bunch of added benefits. Cargo bikes are also capable of making more deliveries in a day than a delivery truck, in cities like Cambridge.
2 – They are faster than cars
Amazon did a test to see which method of delivery is fastest, by holding time trials in New York City. The bicycle couriers were given a package and an address from their bosses, and had to deliver the package within a certain time limit and make it back to the office.
All around the world, every major city that has started using cyclists for deliveries has seen for themselves that cyclists are just as fast as, or faster than using cars. This is because of a number reasons, but primarily it’s because of traffic. Cyclists are less susceptible to traffic, and can generally move more, and travel at faster speeds during rush hour.
3 – They are good for traffic
Replacing the many trucks on the road with cargo bikes will reduce the load on traffic in the city. You’re welcome. There is not a soul alive who actually enjoys getting stuck in traffic, so anything that alleviates that burden should be a welcome change. Bikes of all types and sizes should be a welcome change. And the best part is there’s no downside to this traffic reduction.
4 – They are cheaper
A bicycle costs way less than a delivery truck. And that’s just with upfront costs. Think about the costs associated with managing a fleet of trucks; there are maintenance fees. If the trucks get damaged you have to pay to get them repaired. You have to pay an obscene amount for gas (and trucks devour gas like it’s free).
With a cargo bike, first and foremost they cost nothing to use; you don’t have to pay for gas. Secondly, the cost of bicycle maintenance and repairs are a fraction of what it would cost on a truck.
And hey, with all this money the delivery companies will be saving by switching to bicycle couriers, maybe, they’ll lower their prices! A guy can dream, right?
5 – They are good for the environment
At this point it really doesn’t even need to be said, but no matter how obvious, it’s one of the most crucial advantages bikes have over cars. Bikes are good for the environment.
Motorized vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution on the planet, and at a time where efforts to reduce humanity’s contributions to pollution are essential but often neglected, making the simple, cost-beneficial choice of switching to cargo bikes should be an easy one.
At no extra cost to you (hell, you’re saving a fortune and could probably even MAKE money just by selling a few trucks), you can switch your business from one that makes pollution worse, to one that makes the air we all breathe (including yourself) a little cleaner and healthier.
6 – Anybody can do it
You can hire just about anybody to do the job as long as they are capable of riding a bike, which most people are. This means that companies that switch to cargo bikes are not only doing themselves a favour, they’re also providing potential jobs to all the people in the city who don’t have a driver’s license.
The abysmal job market thanks you for your help in that regard. And hey, you don’t even have to lay off your current drivers if you’re making the switch, because most people can ride bicycles!
7 – The workers are healthier
We’ve said it time and time again, but cycling is just great for your health. Let’s go through all the great things it does for your body. For starters, it’s a good way to shave the extra pounds. Just by keeping fit, you have better mental health and physical health.
But on top of that, exercises such as cycling are also good for other things too; cycling reduces stress levels (as opposed to driving in traffic, which increases your stress). Reduced stress is great for both the employee and the person receiving the package; nobody likes dealing with a stressed out grumpy guy.
Sleepy? Feeling tired out? Surprisingly, cycling is an effective way to wake yourself up. Cycling is known to leave people feeling awake and energetic, which is also better for your overall health.
And when you’re healthy, you’re less likely to suffer from mental illnesses like depression, and you’re less likely to get sick too.
8 – Its convenient
Many places that use bicycle couriers in the city promise same-day delivery, which is pretty awesome on its own, but there’s plenty of other little things that makes them extremely convenient. We’ve mentioned up above that it’s just as fast as or faster than a truck in the city, which is also good.
But bikes are also a lot easier to find parking for. After all, you can put a bike basically anywhere.
9 – It’s fun
This is one of the best reasons; on top of all the benefits cargo bikes offer the city, it’s also a fun job to have. Cycling is a fun activity that is great for the body.
One of the reasons that makes cycling so fun and healthy is that it doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s not like lifting weights, where eventually your arms start to ache and feel like jelly and you have to push yourself to the limits to achieve desired results.
Cycling is constant physical activity that feels like sitting on your ass comfortable, leisurely moving your legs. And as a cyclist, you can go as hard or as casual as you want.
The same applies for bicycle couriers; not every delivery will require you to race through downtown like you’re Jason Statham. As long as you keep up with the speed of the city’s traffic (which is abysmally slow), you’re going to get there faster than any delivery truck could.
10 – It pays well
You can actually earn a pretty decent wage just by getting on your bike and delivering packages. It’s no 6 figure salary but it pays well. One guy working in New York does deliveries for 3 separate companies on demand, and makes roughly $50,000 USD a year.
Considering the average income per person in the USA is under $30,000, he’s doing pretty well for himself. And if that 50k sounds familiar, it’s because that is the average annual income per household; in other words this guy makes enough by himself to support the average American family.
Keep in mind he works for 3 different companies, but even just working for one company can make you a good amount. And since the job requires only that you can ride a bike, it makes for a good after-school or summer job for teenagers.
11 – Cargo bikes let local businesses compete with Amazon
When you think of deliveries and online shopping, you think Google, Amazon, and other big name virtual marketplaces. But since cargo bikes are cheap and are an extremely small burden on owners, it’s possible for bike couriers to help out local businesses. That’s part of the idea behind a German start-ups new model.
The way it works is it is an online shop that connects you to only the local stores, and promises same-day delivery via cargo bike. That way, it drastically reduces the need for delivery trucks, as well as speeds up the delivery process. And on top of that, by using this convenient online marketplace, you support the local businesses and help keep them afloat.
The idea is surprisingly cheap to run as well; with just 40 orders, the stores break even. That’s not a lot of money. Since it’s cheap to run, it also leaves a lot of room for profits to be made. So to recap, this model is good for the environment, good for local businesses, convenient for customers, profitable and it costs barely anything to maintain and run?
I’m starting to wonder why this idea hasn’t appeared in every city on the planet by now.
12 – They can help you move
I’m not crazy and I’m not making this up. There are several moving companies around the world that use cargo bikes and trailer-like attachments for bikes to help people move all their furniture relatively hassle-free. And these aren’t just based in bicycle cities either; there’s one in Montreal for example, and another in Sweden.
As for the why: while it’ll take more than one bike, it’s cheaper than renting a truck. The cyclists for these companies have the equipment to get your stuff, including your couches, from point A to point B fast, and most importantly, safe.
These companies have proven themselves to be just as effective as most moving trucks, for a reduced cost. And of course, they are environmentally safe, and they are a pretty cool novelty service to use. Imagine telling all of your friends your movers transported your couch on a bike. The looks of confusion will be priceless.
13 – They give cyclists more power
For decades, activists have been fighting for cities all over the world to dedicate more resources and effort into developing cycling infrastructure and cut down the use of cars in cities for a wide number of reasons, from environmental concerns to simply wanting to unclog the congested streets. And unless you’re in a big city, these activists are largely ignored.
It wasn’t even until the last decade that cyclists had begun to be allowed to ride on the roads alongside cars. And even then, the practice remains unfairly demeaned as unsafe (ironically, the biggest hazard to cyclists are incompetent motorists).
However, as they say, money is power. And when cargo bikes are used more by businesses, it will prompt cities to take cycling infrastructure more seriously.
14 – They are good for homes too
Cargo bikes aren’t just good for business. They’re good for home too. A cargo bike will save all kinds of money in your household by avoiding gas costs associated with shopping trips. And of course, they will help keep you fit and healthy, and you get to feel proud about all the good you’re doing for the environment.
A good cargo bike in the household can reduce the need for your car by up to 90%. Now that is some good news.