Everyone is talking about the mobility shift as part of the climate change. Cargobikes are supposed to be part of this development. Strictly speaking, they already are. It is just that this part should already be a much larger one. Or rather, this is the goal for the coming years. How this can be achieved was discussed by representatives of bicycle associations and science, bicycle manufacturers, entrepreneurs and local politicians at Velotransport in Berlin at the beginning of last October. We visited the conference and listened carefully to two points in particular:
- What will you be able to use cargo bikes for in the future?
- What do the cargo bikes of the coming years look like?
No more than a partial success
Whoever talks about what can be done with a cargo bike usually comes up with two words – child transport and logistics. Both are now firmly established in this context. Their application has taken on numerous forms, from the simple longtail bike with one or two child seats on the rear carrier to the fully enclosed cargo bike that delivers goods for large logistics companies or electronics markets and almost looks like a small transporter. These are practical cases that are as important as they are useful, helping to avoid the emission of pollutants, counteracting congestion in city centres and bringing valuable time and cost savings for all involved.
According to the assessment of the participants at the conference, however, this will be far from sufficient for the cargo bike to reach the centre of society in the long term. At the same time, this statement implies the idea that cargo bikes offer a potential that goes far beyond that of the children’s taxi on two wheels and the rolling parcel box. Bike manufacturers and service companies in particular are desperate to avoid being pinned down to these two stereotypes. To escape this conceptual bubble, Velotransport deliberately focused on exchanges that go beyond those between manufacturers and customers.
1. What will you be able to use cargo bikes for in the future?
Among other things, the discussion focused on the question of what applications cargo bikes can prove themselves in in the future. For you, we summarise a few examples that have already been implemented in isolated cases and have a good chance of becoming more widespread.
With dustpan and brush
Many street and building cleaners usually drive up with a van. Some municipalities and companies have realised that the necessary utensils for mowing the lawn, watering areas or pruning trees and bushes can very well be moved with a cargo bike. Especially when a trailer is also used. Street cleaning, building cleaning as well as the maintenance of outdoor facilities by public and private entities are definitely candidates for the acquisition of e-cargo bikes.
In the service of health
The hurdles are much higher when it comes to transporting medicines. Depending on the quantity and specification, air-conditioned cargo boxes are required for this purpose, which must be certified by a testing institute in accordance with corresponding guidelines such as the Good Distribution Practice-Drug Product (GDP-DP). Those who do not shy away from the technical and bureaucratic effort can shift the transport of goods between wholesalers, pharmacies, hospitals and patients to a bicycle.
“May I ask you something?”
Some of you will certainly have noticed the one or other info-mobile of political parties in the run-up to a more significant political election. Especially those who want to be present in the pedestrian zones at all times could also have their stand integrated into a cargo bike. Apart from parties, this could interest clubs, associations and similar initiatives. Depending on the size, brochures, flyers, catalogues, food, merchandise, a roof and other things fit into such a vehicle. Those who use special builds can even hand out chilled drinks. Once again, a trailer could come into play and take, for example, chairs, folding tables, display stands and whatever else has to come along.
In the meantime, a cargo bike has become part of the cityscape of many a municipality, from which food and drinks are sold – and in every conceivable form. Coffee, tea, ice cream, soups and sandwiches quickly come to mind. Regardless of whether it’s a small business or a nationwide chain, the market seems to have a very promising future. It is not for nothing that there are already numerous special vehicles and build-ups in this sector.
When children’s hearts beat faster
On the other hand, a cargo bike for day-care centres and people who take care of children should still be a rarity at the moment. Exploring the local area together with children or even travelling a few kilometres away is often associated with quite high hurdles for educators and childminders. In most cases, the quality of local public transport determines whether ideas can be implemented or not. An e-cargo bike with six seats, safety belts for all occupants and a removable canopy can be the much-cited game changer in this situation. Equipped with sufficient lights and reflectors, it can be used safely in road traffic as well.
Off and away
Holidays have always meant more than just two weeks on Mallorca. Not everyone has to go that far away, and there is not always that much time available. Manufacturers such as More Cargobike are starting to look at short holidays whose destination is in the immediate vicinity or can be reached by bus or train without a major change. Space for tent equipment and the like is already available on countless cargo bikes. Add to this ports for a few useful devices such as a cool box and the possibility of safely stowing one’s own things directly on the bike, and new possibilities also open up in the leisure sector.
2. What will the cargo bikes of the coming years look like?
As mentioned earlier, trailers are already a significant addition to many applications. This is likely to increase in the near future. The arguments for this quickly become clear. Models from manufacturers like Carla Cargo mean that another 150 kilograms can be moved. In the case of the Wuppdi model, even 300 kilograms. For private individuals, this will hardly make a difference. Companies in a wide variety of industries, on the other hand, show enormous interest.
Often it is perhaps not the weight but the space that is the more decisive factor. Large cargo platforms of more than one and a half metres in length and around 67 centimetres in width are very versatile per se. As a base area for a wide variety of build-ups, their range of uses is multiplied even further. Usually, the dimensions are adapted to those of the Euronorm boxes. At the same time, the overall width of the trailers remains narrow enough to allow them to be driven on bike lanes.
The hybrid fleet
For someone who knows that he wants to move such heavy and large-volume cargoes all the time, vehicles that are designed for such dimensions from the outset might be considered. Their boxes hold volumes of two cubic metres and payloads of considerably more than 200 kilograms. Conventional ebike drives with derailleur or hub gears and power transmission by chain and belt are overtaxed in the long run by this. Not so cargo bikes from Citkar, Onomotion or Urban Mobility. Their hybrid drive with generator and electric power conversion is based on technology from the automotive sector and promises the necessary stability. It would not be surprising if even more manufacturers were to rely on this form of drive.
Who wouldn’t want to be special?
Some signs indicate that specialisation, as seen on the Citkar Loadster and other bikes, is continuing. Until now, cargo bikes have always wanted to be versatile in order to appeal to the widest possible target group. These models will by no means disappear. However, as considered at Velotransport, cargo bikes will appear alongside them that are geared to a very specific task and do it better than a “jack of all trades”.
Pictures: Carla Cargo Engineering GmbH; Floradl; Onomotion GmbH; Mäx & Mäleon GmbH; Sortimo International GmbH; Urban Mobility GmbH; Velofracht GmbH; Velokonzept GmbH; Wuppdi Design and Engineering UG