Electric cargo bikes offer clean and efficient deliveries – replacing polluting vans – and are especially suited to towns and city centres. Councils can pioneer their use on urban streets – and help encourage local businesses to make the switch.
Electric cargo bikes contribute towards lower emissions and improved air quality. Electric cargo bikes may have two, three or four wheels, but all models feature a large container for transporting goods and equipment.
Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) has bought 12 bikes, some of which can carry loads of up to 150kg in weight. These are used by by council teams and small businesses in the city.
BHCCs post room, cemeteries teams, community engagement team and cycle instructors use electric cargo bikes. A further five have been given to sustainable logistics company Zedify to support business deliveries across Brighton & Hove. Five other electric cargo bikes were awarded to local businesses.
The aim of this project is to build a strong business case that demonstrates that electric cargo bikes can largely replace diesel vans for urban deliveries and in turn encourages local businesses to adopt electric cargo bikes.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s eCargo Bike Accelerator Programme aims to boost the uptake of electric cargo bikes among small businesses. The scheme offers a £125 subsidy to local businesses that switch from polluting vehicles to use Zedify’s electric cargo bike courier service.
Project support also includes impartial advice on the best electric cargo bike to suit different budgets and business needs, free rider training, and the promotion of businesses on the eCargo Bike Accelerator project webpage.
Council teams have been impressed with the bikes. For example, the cemetery team report that they make carrying tools and equipment much easier, as it has an open top box, whilst also being far quieter than diesel vans.
The impact has however gone beyond the council’s own use of the bikes. For example, providing an electric cargo bike to Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op has created an immediate impact, helping vulnerable community residents. By using an electric cargo bike, the co-op can survey homes and install energy saving measures in just one client visit, due to the increased storage capacity compared with the regular pedal bikes that the organisation was using beforehand. This allows the co-op to support twice as many households through their fuel poverty alleviation programme, and reduce delays that vulnerable residents can face in making their cold homes more comfortable.
The project has also had a significant impact on local businesses. Local business Brighton Gin received an e-cargo bike in 2020 and has now recorded over 2,200 miles that would have been made by their diesel vehicles.
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This project directly aligns with the council’s strategic priorities, which include becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and building towards a liveable city centre. It is therefore helping to meet the recommendations of Brighton & Hove’s climate assembly in 2020.
A key aspect that made this project work is the creation of multiple external partnerships. The council first worked with Energy Savings Trust to gain knowledge of the electric cargo bike sector, and to support their application for grant funding.
The council also worked closely with MP Smarter Travel, a London based sustainable travel consultancy that supported the local authority’s promotion and engagement with businesses. This included helping to identify companies which may be interested in e-cargo bikes, determining their eligibility for the subsidy scheme, and guiding them to either buy their own bike.
The Living Coast were also a key partner, sponsoring an electric cargo bike expo. The event, which took place on Car Free Day (22 September 2021), gave businesses, suppliers and the public the chance to test-ride different models and learn more about the eCargo Bike Accelerator Project.
Raising awareness of benefits
Success in getting local businesses to adopt electric cargo bikes has been, in part, due to the council raising awareness and engaging companies directly on the financial case and other benefits.
The benefits include cheaper purchasing and operating costs compared with cars and vans; easier and more convenient parking and loading in congested areas; zero emissions and access to car-free areas; and a positive image for the business.
The local authority was awarded about £80,000 from the Department for Transport’s £1.2m e-Cargo Bike Grant Fund which allowed for the purchase of 12 electric cargo bikes and a trailer. The council included some of its own funds for the purchasing of extra equipment and resources, as well as to support the eCargo Bike Accelerator Project.
The price of individual bikes varies depending on model and type, with new bikes typically costing between £2,000 and £4,000.
Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic have impacted on delivery and supply chains. This has made it difficult for Brighton & Hove City Council to obtain certain types of electric cargo bike. However, manufacturers are beginning to adapt to these barriers and are starting to build good stock levels of varying models so this should start to get easier for other councils.
Another important issue has been ensuing that council teams and local business are getting daily use out of the bikes to ensure maximum benefits. Giving council staff and business owners training to use electric cargo bikes confidently is essential to ensuring the electric cargo bike is used enough, whilst also ensuring that they have the right type of bike to suit their needs and local geography.
Find more resources for councils on our Learning Out Loud webpages.
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