Cargo bike deliveries could save Britain £4bn

A new study has been published looking at how switching from diesel vans to pedal power for deliveries could offer significant reductions in healthcare and environmental costs.

The report, Delivering Value, published by Just Economics, Team London Bridge, and Impact on Urban Health, suggests moving to cargo bicycle deliveries could cut a total of £4.3bn off the UK’s NHS and green bills. 

orange and black bicycle wheel

While this may sound like wishful thinking, research by the Department for Transport (DfT) has found that 33% of all deliveries to urban addresses could use cargo bikes and ecargo bikes, rather than internal combustion engines. Not only would this be a benefit to the health of delivery workers, it would slash congestion on the roads, bringing emissions down, in turn having a positive impact on air pollution and public health.

To give an idea of the scale of this problem, London currently foots a huge £2.46bn annual bill as a result of the hidden social and environmental costs of pollution from vans. Cutting this by 1/3 would therefore free up substantial budget for other purposes.

You can read the full Delivering Value report here.

According to Oxford-based zero emissions courier firm Pedal and Post, the UK’s deliveries market has grown exponentially over the past decade, with overall value jumping from £6.9bn in 2013 to £13.9bn in 2021. Covid-19 directly led to a 50% boost in the sector. 

Clearly, lockdowns and shopping restrictions have been lifted, but shopping habits show no sign of reversing, with online increasingly dominating sales. All this contributes to an estimated £4.6bn cargo bike delivery market value, if its full potential is realised. 

However, major cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, currently have no cycle courier schemes available. And the number of smaller towns also lacking this service is also significant. At the time of writing, just eight cycle delivery businesses operate in more than one city across the UK.

Pedal and Post is looking to maximise on this by expanding, and has opened a new crowdfunding investment round to raise £500,000. This would help create 140 new jobs, increase parcel capacity to 8,000 per day, saving 400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the process. 

‘The potential to clean up our air and grow the UK economy is huge. Pollution from diesel van deliveries costs the NHS nearly £25,000 across the lifetime of the van, compared to around £150 for an electric cargo bike,’ said Chris Benton, Pedal and Post CEO. 

‘We also know that cargo bikes can deliver  more parcels per hour than the average van, and produce 92% less greenhouse gas emissions per delivery, so it really is a no brainer to make the switch,’ he continued.

Late last year, our sister publication, Air Quality News, reported on the impact of using nudge theory to recommend click and collect to online shoppers, rather than home delivery. Find out more about the trial here.

Image: Dan Burton


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