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6 June 2018

Electric cargo bike for delivery, repairs, and cleaning

"Cargo bikes replace delivery vans: what’s next?"

At the end of 2017 Maastricht Bereikbaar launched a trial with electric cargo bikes. It has since become clear that the e-cargo bike is a great alternative to traditional delivery vehicles for businesses in several branches. Teaming up with Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Maastricht Bereikbaar investigated how electric cargo bikes can deliver added value for users and the city. We now take a look at the results together with four business owners.

Maastricht Bereikbaar offered businesses a reimbursement for leaving their delivery vans and cars parked where they were and purchasing an electric cargo bike if they participated in a six-month monitoring and evaluation project that researched the impact of the cargo bikes. Four very different Maastricht-based businesses participated in this trial: mobile hairdressing service HairVisit, Blanche Dael coffee roasting and tea packing house, events agency PP Events, and the student service company Jules.  

Tim Gielen from Jules

‘We use the Urban arrow electric cargo bike with lockable cargo box for delivering packages and small furniture, odd jobs, repairs, and for cleaners,’ explains Tim Gielen. ‘We used to do all this with normal bicycles and a car but during the trial period we used the e-cargo bike two to three times a week. Efficiency is our main reason for using this bicycle. We already have a hybrid car and felt that an additional vehicle should not be worse for the environment than electric driving. We recently considered buying a van, but now, because of the cargo bike, we don’t have to and we’re using the car less often. We’ve come to realize more and more just how inefficient the car is.’

Noël Wilmes fromHairVisit 

‘I use the Babboe cargo bike every day for my mobile hairdressing service which includes colouring treatments. I always used to travel by car but now I can still take all my hairdressing tools, hairdryer, and sometimes even a child seat and a range of dyes. I can even bring my mobile wash basin!’ says Noël Wilmes. ‘That’s far too much to carry on a normal bicycle but it all fits perfectly in the e-cargo bike. I’ll sometimes cycle for 45 minutes in one go to the Maastricht Aachen Airport and across the border to Lanaken. The polyester lid with integrated solar panels that I developed has extended my range. My second prototype also has a solar panel that I can slide out when I park. I’m motivated to use the e-cargo bike as I want to reduce CO2emissions and because it is healthier to cycle. I cycled an average of 26 kilometres per day. I now park my car further away from the house, so that I’m less tempted to use it. We are even considering getting rid of one of the cars. I also cycled a lot in the winter and even the snow was no obstacle!’

Peter van Helvert from PP Events

‘I perform as a clown and deliver balloons from my own company. I used the Urban Arrow e-cargo bike often, also for my commute to the job that I have in addition to my own company,’ explains Peter. ‘Even when it rains I’ll cycle in my rain suit. I now use the e-cargo bike instead of the delivery van to drive my routes, which I do three times a week on average. It has proved especially useful for jobs in the city centre. I’ve now decided to sell the delivery van which has become completely redundant! For trips outside Maastricht I now use my own car. That means that there is one less diesel-fuelled car on the road and I save on petrol, insurance, and road tax! As a business you must be able to start thinking differently: don’t just get in the car, but ask yourself how you could do things in a different way. All businesses should give it a go!’

Charles Ubachs from Blanche Dael

‘We use the Urban Arrow e-cargo bike for the daily trip between the coffee roasting and tea packing house, the offices of Blanche Dael, and our shop on Wolfstraat,’ says Charles Ubachs. ‘Sometimes we do this trip twice a day. The electric cargo bike is also used for business meetings in the city centre which is quicker to reach by bicycle than by car. Now that the trial has ended we will continue using the e-cargo bike. However, it’s not a replacement for our delivery van, as we still need that for larger, heavier orders.’  

Advantages

All four participants enjoyed using the e-cargo bike. It has plenty of space to transport goods and it is easier and faster to use in the city centre, as you can go down one-way streets.‘It’s great that you can cross the bridge at 27 kilometres per hour and not be bothered by the headwind,’ says Charles Ubachs. They also received positive reactions from their customers and on the street. Noël Wilmes especially enjoys cycling around the city. ‘I see more of the landscape which gives me a feeling of freedom and I no longer have to go to the gym in the weekends. Another plus is that I save about 400 euros per year in parking expenses by using the electric cargo bike. Even my strength has improved. Since I started using the bicycle I haven’t had to have treatment for my back at the physiotherapist for the first time in ten years!’ Peter van Helvert can cross the squares much more easily with the bicycle. ‘With a delivery van you often have to go around the squares, park the van somewhere else, and walk. Not having to search for parking also saves time. I now save on parking and I use the bicycle to travel to my performances instead of having to park the car in the city centre. I feel fitter and healthier from using the e-bike and you barely break a sweat which is also an advantage.’ According to Charles Ubachs the advantages of the cargo bike for Blanche Dael are its speed, the health of their staff, and clean air. And it also happens to be an eye-catcher! 

Learning points

For all four of the participants it took some getting used to using the e-cargo bike in traffic. The bicycle is a little longer and goes quite fast, which is something other road users have to get used to. This is something you have to consider when overtaking. The bicycle paths also weren’t made for cargo bikes and this makes overtaking cyclists and moped users more difficult. At Jules they didn’t have a good and secure bicycle storage area which made parking the cargo bike an issue. They also had to learn to internally organize the schedule for the e-cargo bike. Noël Wilmes has also started planning differently to reduce the distance between clients. Some of the participants also point out that you have to remember to regularly charge the e-bike.Charles Ubachs noted that it is difficult to park the bicycle in Wolfstraat, as you can only temporarily park there for loading and unloading. If you park the bicycle there for too long, you are accosted by the enforcement officers. 

Tips for the municipality

The business owners believe that the most important tip for the municipality is to create more parking spaces for the cargo bikes - also in the city centre. ‘There are parking spaces but they can cost up to €120 per month to rent, which cancels out all other savings. The municipality should consider a front door parking permit for cargo bikes. Up until now, the bicycle parking facility at the station is the only guarded bicycle parking where the bike fits in. More places for parking these bikes need to be created. It would also be great to have wider or two-lane bicycle paths.’ The business owners agree that the promotion of the cargo bikes could also be better. For example, promotional e-mails could be sent out to business owners or businesses in the city centre that could use the cargo bike could be approached directly; after all, example is better than precept!

Time for a change of transport?

Would you as a business owner like to see if there is a suitable alternative for your delivery van? Then make use of our special offer to try out an electric cargo bike or the Ebike4Delivery. For more information visit: www.maastrichtbereikbaar.nl/en/offers/transport-e-bikes