Evolution of Cargo Bike Logistics

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Harry Macey (Mobby Bikes) takes a look at history of London Cargo Bikes from the lens of B to B 2018

I started my career in a live operations role overseeing hot food deliveries for a B2B food delivery company, back in 2018. At that time, only three notable companies operated cargo bikes, (can we name them) with the majority relying on vans and cars. The limited number of cargo bike operators led to challenges. Still, the deliveries handled by cargo bikes proved more punctual due to manoeuvring traffic and taking advantage of cycle infrastructure within the city.

Since then, the industry has evolved, witnessing advancements in larger 4-wheeled cargo vehicles capable of covering greater distances, carrying heavier loads, and even detaching for cycling and walking. The cities are also changing with speed limit zones, pedestrian zones, and further cycle infrastructure development. My roles have consistently involved cargo bikes, allowing me to witness this development firsthand. A notable shift in traditional logistics is evident, but what proves to be the most efficient is yet to be seen. We've seen examples of different postal operators using cargo bikes and testing their use cases. But there still seems to be no set model that works in every region. Amazon in New York, for instance, used micro-hub sorting on roadsides to load packages onto non-electric Carla cargo trailers pulled by bikes for delivery in Manhattan's dense areas. This example may work well in Urban settings, but not in rural areas where you travel longer distances, the need to take higher weight limits and take advantage of higher speed limits that cargo bikes cannot hit.

Looking ahead, further developments and opportunities are expected in the logistics space. My current focus revolves around e-trailers, capable of carrying 350kg and 2m3 of volume. This product attaches to a bike, enabling cycling through the city, followed by detachment and hand-walking in dense drop areas. This innovation holds promise in high-drop zones and pedestrian areas inaccessible to vans. There are innovative ways this could work in certain zones by pre-loading these out of a city and then dropping them into a central drop zone for the last mile. Trials are underway in London of this e-trailer with different companies, and updates on developments and results will follow.