Bicycling 4 / 5: Bicycles – tomorrow’s HGV’s ?

bikes 05a1A document was recently published which discusses the “potential for shifting goods transport from cars to bicycles in European cities” (ref. 1900). It is the result of research partly funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe programme of the European Union. Its main argument is that:



“Taking into account trip distance, weight and volume of goods every second motorized trip in urban areas that involves goods transport has the potential to be shiftedto the bicycle”

Some of the background arguments  seem a bit weak – for example, where urban goods transport is defined as including personal shopping trips (whereas I still think of goods transport as commercially delivered goods). However the main argument is potentially valid, and the document includes a useful discussion of cargo cycling, what it is and what its weight and volume limits are.

Another reference also looked into this topic, and noted that cargo cycles are already in use in urban areas of Europe (Ref. 1901). Two examples from the UK of commercial cargo bike operations are the London-based gnewt cargo and Outspoken Delivery in Cambridge. Outspoken Delivery say that they:

“…. move everything from super-urgent small documents to large multiple consignments using a range of bicycles that can carry up to 250kg. We deliver all over Cambridge, as well as to London and work with over 200 businesses and organisations, offering a zero emissions solution to your logistics needs”.

While businesses are starting up which provide cycle-based transport of goods (and of  people), the trend is not without opposition. For example, in June this year the London Evening Standard ran a story (here) on a potential ban on rickshaw taxis (pedicabs) said,

“Dangerous pedicabs could be banned from the West End under tough new rules to regulate the “menace” of rickshaw drivers. Under proposals put forward by the Law Commission, owners of the pedal-powered taxis would have to be licensed and meet rigorous safety and training standards. Critics say rickshaws cause traffic chaos by parking in bus lanes, riding on pavements and going the wrong way on one-way streets”.

In another example, in 2010 there was news of bans on rickshaws in the streets of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh (see for example here). Elsewhere, in what seems to be inconsistent planning, in Ireland in 2013 the city of Galway planned to ban rickshaws from all pedestrianised streets in the city (see here), whilst Dublin announced a €2.6 million expansion of its “Dublin Bikes” scheme.

Mind you, as a cyclist I don’t like being hassled by cars, but as a pedestrian I don’t like being hassled by bicyclists.


1900 – Austria  “Potential to shift goods transport from cars to bicycles in European cities; cyclelogistics; 2014

1901 – Germany, Ernst Benedikt Riehle “Das Lastenfahrrad als Transportmittel fuer staedtischen Wirtschaftsverkeargo bikes as a means of transport for urban commercial transport” (master thesis), TU Dortmund; 2012


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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