Active Travel Academy | The Promise of Low Carbon Freight: Benefits of cargo bikes in London

Ersilia Verlinghieri, Irena Itova, Nicolas Collignon, Rachel Aldred

Verlinghieri, E., Itova, I., Collignon, N., Aldred, R. (2021). The Promise of Low Carbon Freight : Benefits of cargo bikes in London, (August 2021) [available:]

Freight Transport Contributes significantly and increasingly to climate change. Further than that, in urban areas, goods vehicles contribute to deteriorating public space quality, air quality, and other road users’ safety. In the next years, the growing demand for home deliveries is predicted to worsen the situation, which will not be contained by shifting to less polluting vehicles alone.

Using as a case study Pedal Me, a new freight cycle company, our study provided a new analysis of the logistics potential of cargo bikes offering an alternative to vehicle delivery in London. Cargo bikes are becoming popular and are a promising alternative to reliance on delivery vans. However, very few studies have looked in details at the benefits associated with switching from vans to cargo-bikes for deliveries in urban areas.

Using wide GPS datasets and routing software, we compared routes taken by Pedal Me cargo bikes with routes that vans would have to take to deliver the same parcels. We found the service performed by the Pedal Me freight cycles was an average of 1.61 times faster than the one performed by vans. But cargo bikes weren’t just more efficient; in the 98 days of work we sampled, they saved over 5.5 kg of NOx and a total of 3,896 Kg of CO2, the same amount of CO2 needed to y 17 times from London to Rome and back, showing that cargo bikes can provide a more efficient urban logistic service without generating many of the externalities currently associated with van deliveries.

The study has been extremely well received in the local, national and international press, as well as by policymakers and practitioners. The study is part of a broader project titled ‘Car-Free Megacities’ run by the Active Travel Academy in partnership with the climate action charity Possible, and funded by the KR foundation.