The Future of Cargo Bikes
Owain Comfort, Head of Design and Development at Yodel
How did the cargo bike trials begin - what caught the curiosity of Yodel and what hopes had the business in the beginning?
We have been operating with cargo bike partners for over five years as part of our promise to Go Green, after launching in Oxford in 2017. Our initial expectations were that this would be a niche experience exclusive to Oxford, but the success of the trial and the development of cargo bikes’ capabilities has changed the solution to being a core part of our final delivery network.
How small did the trials begin and what were the first impressions?
The initial trials started with two bikes in Oxford, and the reaction from our customers was overwhelmingly positive with feedback showing they really connected with our commitment to sustainability. The bikes’ capability also exceeded all our expectations and supported further roll out across Oxford and the start of further trials in other cities. The development of electric assisted cargo bikes over the last two years has allowed us to expand into Brighton, Bristol, Bath, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and North and South London.
With some time on the bikes, what savings were evident in either time, money, or carbon emissions?
Studying the metrics of deliveries via cargo bikes, we have gained an efficiency of around 9% for items under 7.5kg, compared to delivering via van. During the last 12 months we have delivered over 750,000 parcels via cargo bike, removed 5,800 van delivery schedules, and saved a quarter of a ton of carbon. These results have driven us to implement cargo bikes as our prime solution for small parcels when it comes to inner city locations, and we can only see this expanding.
How did the riders find the bikes to handle and to use as a platform for delivery?
As you can imagine, cargo bikes can have a very different feel to ordinary bicycles, so riders do have to change their riding style to adapt, but most find the transition seamless. Once riders have completed the induction and training programme with our partners, they have found cargo bikes a great platform for parcel deliveries. Our partners also give riders opportunities to progress from two-wheeled bikes onto trikes, providing riders with flexible options. Generally, a cargo bike’s ability to move through our inner cities makes it a more effective delivery platform than a van.
What other unforeseen perks exist - employee health, ease of parking etc?
The evolution in the cargo delivery market has opened the recruitment pool to a wider demographic. Cargo bikes allow people to enter the sector who traditionally were exempt due to not having a driving licence. The percentage of under 30’s with a valid driving licence is dropping, specifically in our inner cities, so cargo bikes are providing a natural solution for this. We are also seeing a higher percentage of women moving into the sector compared to our van operations and this is helping us to build a more diverse workforce.
What is Yodel's view on cargo bikes now as part of the ecosystem for future deliveries? Expansion planned in fleet and geography?
We believe consolidated delivery networks will be the future in towns and cities and we see cargo bikes playing a large role in this. The development in cargo bike design, specifically electric assisted bikes and trikes, is allowing us to expand the range of parcels we can deliver and the areas we can access. We operate cargo bike networks in eight locations within the UK and the plan for 2022 is to increase the footprints of these operations, while exploring the options in a further seven cities. Our partners currently operate around 125 riders per day and future expansion could cater for up to 500 riders.