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Cargo bikes can compete with cars, say new studies

Studies indentify key elements in any successful scheme that aims to significantly alter attitudes toward car use and ownership

Juliana O'Rourke
12 February 2024


Cargo bikes are emerging as "game-changers in urban transportation" according to two recent studies, one from Europe and one from the USA.

Both reports study shed light on the transformative potential of cargo bikes, highlighting how they can significantly alter attitudes toward car use and ownership.

The transformation seems to be happening across the pond, too. A new white paper from the Urban Freight Lab offers a roadmap to a more sustainable (and healthier) zero emissions conveyance system. The Urban Freight Lab is a public-private partnership housed at the University of Washington, and recently published “Biking the Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of E-Cargo Bikes,” – a helpful document for many key stakeholders in both the public and private sector.

Join us at the National Cargo Bike Summit on 10 May in London to find out more....

The comprehensive German study, "Can cargo bikes compete with cars?", was conducted across 58 cargo bike share schemes, and researchers found compelling evidence of the cargo bike effect. Out of more than 2,000 active users surveyed, nearly one-fifth reported either selling their car or forgoing a planned car purchase. What’s striking is that this trend persisted even in households with just one car, demonstrating the profound impact cargo bikes can have on transportation decisions.

Both studies indentified key elemenst in any successful scheme:

  • Infrastructure: Cycling, parking infrastructure, and urban logistics hubs

  • Policy and regulation: E-bike laws, safety regulations, and policies de-prioritising vehicles

  • Incentives: Purchase rebates and business subsidies

  • Culture and education: Labour force training, educational programs, and community-driven adoption

The German study concluded that cargo bike sharing contributes considerably to car ownership reduction.?The report authors say: "Overall, our results indicate a considerable potential of cargo bikes and cargo bike sharing to reduce car ownership. Participants consistently state environmental motives and concerns as the most important reason to shed their cars, as well as the most important for choosing a transport mode in general.

"Our results therefore indicate that cargo bikes are promising and sustainable alternatives to private car ownership. Thus, they could contribute not only to reduced car use but also to reduced car ownership, resulting in additional environmental, social, and economic advantages...cargo bikes can indeed, to some extent, compete with the private car. Nevertheless, competitiveness could be further improved with infrastructural measures which particularly aim at closing gaps on instrumental attributes."

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