Image for The UK is about to get its first on-demand, e-cargo bike-sharing scheme

The UK is about to get its first on-demand, e-cargo bike-sharing scheme

Residents in Hackney, London, will be able to rent the bikes to do the shopping and move furniture. Those behind the idea hope it will catch on elsewhere

Residents in Hackney, London, will be able to rent the bikes to do the shopping and move furniture. Those behind the idea hope it will catch on elsewhere

The Scandinavians have used them for decades, the Dutch too. Now cargo bikes are starting to catch on in the UK, as people realise they’re the fastest way to shuttle goods across a busy city. 

However, they don’t come cheap, and the high cost of electric-assisted cargo bikes (they retail for about the same price as a second hand family car) puts them out of reach for many people. A new bike sharing scheme in London aims to address that. 

Launching this month, Cargo Bike Share will make eight e-cargo bikes available for rent from docking stations across the London borough of Hackney. The bikes are already used by businesses across the city, to deliver anything from beer to office furniture.

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Hackney’s cycles will be capable of carrying cargo weighing 80kg – roughly equivalent to the weekly shop and two dogs. Residents will be encouraged to use them to transport items that would typically be slung into a van, such as small pieces of furniture, as well as groceries. 

Research suggests that 66 per cent of all journeys in the UK are under five miles, with more than half of those (55 per cent) completed by car or van. According to Beryl – the bike share provider delivering Hackney’s scheme – e-cargo bikes offer a climate-friendly alternative for such trips. 

“For short journeys, e-cargo bikes are by far the best and often the most time efficient way to move large or heavy items,” said Philip Ellis, the firm’s chief exec. “A network of e-cargo bikes has the potential to transform local areas making them safer and more pleasant to live and work in, due to the reduction in CO2 emissions, noise pollution and stationary motor vehicles that take up valuable space on our streets.” 

Cargo bikes

Already a common sight on the continent, cargo bikes are now catching on in the UK. Image: Mika Baumeister

Cargo Bike Share is funded by the Mayor of London and the Zero Emissions Network, which helps people in Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney transition to more environmentally-friendly forms of transport.

Docking stations are currently being installed across Hackney, and bikes will be available for hire later this month through the Beryl app. Hackney council has not yet revealed how much it will cost to rent them. 

Hackney’s on-demand scheme is the first of its kind in the UK, although cargo bikes are available for rent in other cities. Nottingham Commons Cargo Cycle books them out on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis, while Share Oxford – a library of things – also has one available for advance bookings. Carry Me Bikes in London, meanwhile, does a try-before-you-buy hire scheme. 

Those behind Cargo Bike Share hope it will inspire other cities to launch similar versions. “We believe this e-cargo bike trial has the potential to show what is possible in many urban areas across the UK, as businesses and residents explore more sustainable transport options,” said Ellis.

Main image: Hackney council

This article was updated on 16 September 2021 to include existing cargo bike hire schemes in the UK. 

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