Hina Bokhari with a cargo bike
Hina Bokhari said both the mayor and the government could boost cargo bike usage

Sadiq Khan has been urged to help businesses swap their vans for cargo bikes after City Hall politicians hailed their “revolutionary” possibilities.

The London Assembly’s economy committee said the mayor should provide more money for borough councils to arrange cargo bike sharing and training schemes.

The committee explored how businesses can be incentivised to shift away from diesel vans and towards using cargo bikes for deliveries and other jobs.

Cargo bikes can range from two- or three-wheeled bikes with trailers or storage boxes on the front or back to four-wheeled covered vehicles. They can cost up to £12,500 while the cheapest electric vans cost about £24,000.

The committee found that cargo bikes allow businesses to travel within the ultra low emissions zone for a relatively low upfront cost, as well as reducing congestion and pollution. Their report calls on Transport for London to do more to help businesses obtain cargo bikes from the ULEZ scrapple scheme.

Hina Bokhari, the Liberal Democrat who chairs the committee, said: “The whole point of this is about incentivising – it’s making sure that businesses can see the options. We’ve got big businesses like Amazon who are taking them up and now we want to make sure that those smaller businesses, that want to do the same, feel like they can make that transition – and that can happen with the support of the mayor and the support of the government.”

Bokhari added: “We’ve talked to plumbers, we’ve talked to electricians who are making that transition, and they’ve said that using a cargo bike saves them time, because they can get to their appointments on time and fit in more appointments. It’s great for their business, it’s great for their mental health as well. It’s a win-win for so many businesses.”

Brian Whiting on a cargo bike
Brian Whiting has recently bought a cargo bike for his charity

Brian Whiting, operations manager at the homeless outreach charity Under One Sky, has trialled one of the bikes and ordered one to help with deliveries across London.

“It’s quicker than the van, I don’t have to worry about parking. I can get anything I want into it. If there’s busy traffic I can take an alternative route,” Whiting said. “It’s clean, it’s non-polluting – that’s the main thing. And it’s good exercise, I felt good when I was on the bike.”

Oliver Lord, who leads the British branch of the Europe-wide Clean Cities Campaign, said: “We see this as a really positive solution for businesses. It’s obviously not going to be a solution for every business, but if you look at the number of vans that are being driven in London, it’s gone up about 30 per cent in the past decade – it’s something we can’t sustain, so this is a space-saver.

“It’s an excellent initiative to try and reduce costs to businesses in a cost of living crisis and quite frankly as an environmental campaign, it’s going to help us save the planet, but also more importantly, save our health as well, because of the air pollution problem.”

Oliver Lord with a cargo bike
Oliver Lord said that many businesses would be able to switch

TfL’s recently-published action plan on cargo bikes suggests that the vehicles could replace up to 17 per cent of van-driven kilometres in central London by the end of the decade.

Responding to the committee’s report, Will Norman, the mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, said: “Cargo bikes can be real game changers when it comes to delivering freight and servicing trips.

“Not only do they provide environmental benefits by not contributing to air pollution, they also make journeys more efficient, and present a much lower risk of danger to people walking and cycling than vans and HGVs. We will continue to explore how we can grow the use of cargo bikes on our road, to help both the environment and the health of Londoners, and build a better, safer, greener London for everyone.”

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Noah Vickers is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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