Courier firms urged to swap large vans for cargo bikes - new LGA report

Delivery companies should consider switching to cargo bike schemes where possible to cut carbon emissions, improve air quality and reduce congestion, a new report by the Local Government Association suggests today.

Cargo bike parked up on the pavement

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for couriers to adopt the environmentally friendly bikes, which offer a cost-effective and zero-carbon transport option, for “last mile” deliveries from local hubs to homes.

It comes as latest figures show that light commercial vehicle traffic, which includes online shopping delivery vans, is at pre-pandemic levels, and with more and more people doing their shopping online as a result of COVID-19, this is only likely to increase, the LGA says.

The LGA’s new report, Transport decarbonisation by travelling less, says switching to cargo bikes will help address concerns about the rise of largely diesel delivery vans operating in busy urban areas and residential streets, contributing to poor air quality, congestion and loss of local amenity.

It says that courier bikes can replace up to 10 per cent of conventional vans in areas where the final delivery route is no more than 2 km, without changing the overall network efficiency. They can also reduce current urban delivery carbon emissions by 73 per cent over the course of a courier vehicle’s life cycle.

In addition, the bikes will help to tackle the issue of delivery vans clogging up road and in some cases pavement space as they make deliveries in smaller residential streets.

Cargo bikes are popular in Holland, Germany and Denmark, and local businesses are also starting to take advantage.

Councils are already promoting use of e-cargo bikes having purchased the bikes for use by local businesses or for deployment within their own fleets.

  • Cambridgeshire County Council in a joint project with Cambridge City Council plans to deploy 30 e-cargo bikes covering first-mile deliveries, a residential sharing scheme, a “try before you buy” leasing scheme and pool e-cargo bikes with a combined aim of reducing travel emissions and encouraging active and sustainable transport options.
  • Devon County Council plans to use 13 e-cargo bikes in Exeter to support sustainable active business travel, as an alternative to car and van use. Two of the bikes will be used by the local hospital’s adult and social care teams to care for some of the most isolated people in the city.
  • Nottingham City Council is establishing a fleet to be used by the council to replace journeys around the city and parks. They will also be made available to local project delivery partners and to local businesses on a “try before you buy” basis.

Cllr David Renard, LGA transport spokesperson, said:

“Courier firms have played a vital role during the coronavirus crisis in continuing to provide a delivery service while people have been unable to get out and about as they would in normal times.

“Online shopping will continue to grow, and so will our reliance on courier services.

“This has unfortunately seen the consequence of large delivery vans clogging up street space, increasing congestion and in some cases causing a rise in air pollution.

“We need to look at how we manage online deliveries in the future and consider new delivery options which are more climate and road-friendly.

“Swapping large vans for cargo bikes is one way in which we can make a really positive difference to our environment and help achieve the country’s carbon reduction targets.”

Notes to editors

The full series of decarbonising transport briefings (including 'Travelling less and the role of online opportunities') can be found on the LGA website, with more briefings to be launched in the coming weeks.

The LGA is also hosting a webinar on this subject on Tuesday 24 November 2020, 10.30am - 12.00pm. Places on the webinar are now available.

Eighteen councils secured funding from the £2m eCargo Bike Grant Fund to support the purchase of ecargo bikes. The scheme is funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.

Transport use during the coronavirus pandemic showing light commercial vehicle traffic is returning to pre-pandemic level.