Cycle logistics: moving to the mainstream


There has been a string of developments which has led to significant growth in cycle logistics and cargo bikes. Richard Armitage asks whether 2019 will be when cargo bikes reach tipping point and move into the mainstream?

This time last year, I reported in GreenFleet that government interest had kickstarted the cargo bike market. Today, the £2m eCargo Bike Grant Fund has been up and running since April 2019 and has already awarded grants towards the purchase of 65 e-cargo bikes.

Managed on behalf of the Department for Transport by the Energy Saving Trust, the Fund aims to put an additional 2,000 cargo bikes on English streets by April 2020. The Fund is getting its technical advice from the industry via the Bicycle Association (bike retailers and the wider UK bike industry) and the UK Cycle Logistics Federation (cycle logistics operators).

On 23 May 2019, the man who took the decision to recycle OLEV Electric Vehcile funds for e-cargo bikes, Jesse Norman MP, moved on to the Treasury. He has been replaced as Minister of State at the Department for Transport by Northampton MP, Michael Ellis MP.

The European Cycle Logistics Federation held its 6th international conference on 24 June 2019 in Dublin. Hosted by the City Council, the event had over 150 participants signed up from all over the world and bore witness to three ‘launch’ events.

First up was UPS, the US-based global courier that already uses cargo bikes extensively in its networks, especially in cities like Hamburg, Germany. UPS launched the Breathe, a four-wheel pedelec (fully compliant with the UK Electric Assist Pedal Cycle regulations) that in style but not scale mimics many of the functions of UPS’ classic urban delivery fleet.

Peter Harris, UPS’ International sustainability director, revealed that of its 119,000 fleet, almost eight per cent are alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles (including cargo bikes). Collection and delivery is all about electrification and cycle logistics, with long haul concentrating on renewable natural gas.

Since 2017, UPS has been trialling an on- street micro-hub in partnership with Dublin City Council. The demountable truck body occupies what were car parking spaces. This is served by two e-trikes, one conventional trike and walkers, which have substituted for four ICE vehicles. With 500 packages per day removed from the ‘ICE’ van system, UPS is claiming a 40 per cent CO2 reduction. Now, in the autumn, the Fernhay-UPS e-quad Breathe will be trialled in Dublin, in a partnership that also includes Belfast City Council.


The Dublin ECLF conference also saw the European industry associations European Cycle Logistics Federation (ECLF) and Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) announced a strategic partnership to strengthen the impact and industrial coordination of the cargo bike sector. They have combined forces to create a stronger advocacy
voice for cycle logistics businesses in EU and national government policies.

Kevin Mayne, chief executive of CIE said: “Two million light commercial vehicles per year are sold in the EU and 96 per cent of them are diesel, a figure that is growing. Our collaboration with ECLF means we can showcase how cycle logistics businesses must be at the heart of sustainable mobility policies. Our target is one million cargo bikes sold annually.”

ECLF will be represented in Brussels by the CIE staff unit at the heart of the EU district, enabling the benefits of cycle logistics to be presented at the highest policy levels in the EU.

An Expert Group in cargo bikes and cycle logistics will be formed to represent the companies involved and to draft the policy positions of the new organisation. The companies’ input will also feed into the development of Europe-wide standards for cargo bikes. This will include activities in the EU funded project City Changer Cargo Bike, a €4million project to grow cargo bike use and sales across the EU.

In Dublin, the CCCB Project launched a set of four booklets promoting the use of cargo bikes in different settings (download your copies at downloads/source-material).

Overview of the market

Finally, a look at the European cargo bike market. Sales volumes are rising rapidly at several of the key cargo bike companies this year. Earlier this year, cargo bike dealers and distributors were surprised to receive notices from their suppliers of delivery times exceeding 26 weeks. Mounting evidence of the pressure to increase volumes was apparent at the International Cargo Bike Festival in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 14-16 June 2019. There the talk amongst exhibitors was consistently about significant investment being made or imminent in new production lines and increased production. One trailer manufacturer, Carla Cargo, has started selling to Amazon in Manhattan, New York; several cargo bike makers are working on large-scale projects with postal service companies and global and national couriers. 2019 could just be the tipping point for cargo bikes.

Richard Armitage FCILT is Executive Director of the trade association, European Cycle Logistics Federation ( His company, Last Mile Manchester, provides third party logistics services and express deliveries using electric-assist cargo bikes.