On 12 and 13 April we visited the third International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen. The first day focused on the business side: how to make our cities more cycle friendly and turn the bicycle into a viable and economic alternative to the van. The second day focused on the cargo bike itself, with a parade through town and a fair, visited by over a thousand people.
Cargo bike can transform our urban landscapes into more liveable spaces. Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
On Saturday the European Cycle Logistics Federation Conference took place as part of the festival. 250 delegates from 25 countries came together to discuss how we can transform our urban landscapes into more liveable spaces by making them more cycle friendly. We know that cycling is healthy and fun, but what are the benefits seen from a business perspective?
According to research, in European cities every second motorised trip could be shifted to the bike. All we need to do is think differently about how we use our space.
Just imagine a young mother - she needs some shopping, it’s time for her baby to have a nap and she’s desperate for some fresh air and exercise. So she puts her baby in the cargo bike, where it falls asleep, cycles straight into the shop, loads her groceries into her cargo bike and rides back to her apartment. Here a large lift takes her up to the floor she lives on. She cycles through the corridors to her home, where she unloads her shopping in the kitchen.
An urban fantasy or reality? Architect Steven Fleming from the University of Tasmania (Australia) believes it’s possible if we choose to move from our car dependent cites to a new kind of city built around bikes. We just need to turn away from urban planning concepts, planted in our heads by car manufacturers and oil companies during the last 100 years, that put the car in centre stage, and start to think differently.
The best way to turn our cities into bike friendly spaces, is by making the car less practical. If the route from A to B is fastest by bike, half the battle is won. According to bicycle urbanism expert Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize, the reason why a lot of our bike infrastructure doesn’t work is because it’s been thought out by traffic engineers using computer models. But why not ask the cyclists themselves?
If we want well-designed spaces that actually work for cyclists, we should observe how they use the space and adapt the infrastructure to their behaviour. If our infrastructure is right, cyclists will be happy to use it properly - no more need for cutting corners and breaking traffic rules.
Last mile transport
Once we have the right infrastructure for ordinary bikes, we also have the infrastructure for other vehicles, such as the cargo bike. The cargo bike is an ideal alternative to the van for what's known as 'last mile transport' in our over-crowded city centres. It’s big business at the moment. We’re not just talking about delivering small parcels and goods here. Cargo bikes are also used for small house and office moves, to transport passengers, or as sound systems. There is a huge economic potential.
At the conference, there were representatives of cycle logistics companies from all over Europe, and even from Canada and the US. They showed how they set up their companies and work together with traditional delivering services - or sometimes against them.
To promote the cargo bike in commercial transport the online platform Lasten auf die Räder! (Cargo on Bikes!) will be launched by the German VCD on 6 May. As there is still a lack of comprehensive information on this topic, it’s a shame the website will be in German only. We were also briefed about the latest cargo bike innovations, the role of electric assist and special software for courier services.
European Cycle Logistics Federation
The European Cycle Logistics Federation (ECLF) was launched during the conference to give a voice to cycle logistics. Their priorities are: accreditation, representation, knowledge sharing, support for start-ups, relationship-building and fund-raising. Cycling logistics operators are welcome to join the ECLF.
Cargo Bike parade and fair
On Sunday, an international group of cyclists gathered with every type of cargo bike you could imagine - and some you couldn't possibly have imagined! - for a parade through town. At the fair the public could try the cargo bikes for themselves. The catering and entertainment were of course all provided by cargo bikes. The fair attracted over a thousand visitors.
Take a look at our photo impression of the International Cargo Bike Festival.