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Study on the use of bicycles in commercial traffic

Potential of cargo bikes in city centers is underestimated

Ein Lastentransportrad
© Sebastian Bührmann

DLR study on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure published

Cargo bikes are able to handle a significant part of the commercial traffic  in city centres in a quiet and environmentally friendly ways. Researchers of the German National Aeronautics and Space Research Centre (DLR) examined the potentials of the use of bikes in commercial traffic and how they can be promoted.

"Potential of cargo bikes on the last mile underestimated"

The basis of the analysis was the record "motor vehicle traffic in Germany" (Kid 2010). The researchers analyzed 3.9 billion and thus about 9 percent of all trips of Germany's commercial traffic. Even under conservative assumptions about eight percent of these analyzed trips may be replaced by cargo bikes. In the long term even up to 23 percent of these trips are replaceable which is about four percent of the examined kilometer performance.

Considerable growth in the delivery service  of internet startups

Cargo bikes are used increasingly in large cities, among others by internet startups which deliver prepared dishes to customers' homes in cooperation with restaurants. In addition to the delivery services, the researchers examined post and parcel deliveries, courier trips, commercial transport of persons and company transport as market segments for the use of bikes in commercial traffic.

Key role for local authorities

The federal, state and local authorities have various options to promote commercial transport by bike and to reduce the traffic-related negative effects in city centers. Especially the local authorities play a key role. Cargo bikes face difficulties which can be reduced or avoided when local authorities include commercial transport by bike into their plans and programs. They have a variety of resources for promotion such as the support of innovative distribution concepts, cargo bike rental programs, the use of cargo bikes in municipal enterprises or by implementing time access permissions in inner cities.

Flexibility and innovative image of business

To find out the criteria according to which companies decide whether cargo bikes are integrated into the companies' vehicle fleet, the researchers discussed with numerous experts. Important criteria for the use of cargo bikes were vehicle engineering aspects such as range of the batteries for electric cargo bikes or the payload but also subjective preferences such as an innovative and sustainable image which should be expressed by the use of cargo bikes or the flexibility in the composition of the fleet.

The study compiles a total of around 30 best practice examples for decision makers in the public sector at the level of the federal government, the states and municipalities.