to 250-300kg. They are usually speed limited to 14-15mph, at which point the power assistance cuts out.

Are the cargo bikes faster, more efficient? Tests by TfL on Crossrail using e-cargo bikes instead of vans showed bikes travelled 12km less, saved over 30-minutes, saved 120kg of CO2 (where a diesel van @25mpg generates 10kg of CO2 per km). In central London, the average speed in September 2020 of Pedal Me e-cargo bikes were of 15km/h and an average speed of a van is estimated at 11.4km/h. Barratt worked with contractor FM Conway after he heard that the firm was working on phase two of the Illuminated River project, which involves fitting LED lights to five London bridges. Originally, FM Conway had planned for materials and equipment to be delivered by van. However, TfL raised the benefits of e-cargo bikes because it is working to reduce the number of lorries and vans entering central London in the morning peak by 10 per cent by 2026.

“I asked FM Conway if they had considered making deliveries by bikes and they didn’t think it was possible, but the C3 cycle lane runs right along the Thames and so we got the conversation going,” explains Barratt. Another e-bike firm, Fully Charged, loaned three bikes to the project and Barratt began examining what sort of materials could be loaded onto them.

Barratt has instigated a number of trials and demonstrations. One with FM Conway was so successful the contractor has invested in some e-cargo bikes that it is using for moving tools and materials between its sites, depot and merchants.

Perhaps more even interesting is the work done on a scheme in Hackney, where construction logistics business O’Neill & Brennan Logistics hired Pedal Me to move

construction materials on a project for Morgan Sindall. Barry Mitchell, operations manager said the trial showed that bikes helped cut some costs and saved time:

“The speed of the cargo bike deliveries has been incredible. Being able to book them on the same day has assisted us massively when urgently needing certain products. During COVID 19 they have been of huge assistance. Whilst a lot of suppliers furloughed staff and stopped delivering items, we were able to get emergency items delivered same day or within 24 hours. Another reason they are incredibly helpful/ positive is because we can utilize them to collect and deliver products and materials between our own projects eliminating the need to use unreliable couriers who in turn are also an expensive service.”

Importantly, Mitchell sees a role for cargo bikes in the future on larger schemes. With the help and support of Barratt (TfL), Hackney Council and Morgan Sindall, they created a dedicated cargo bike area on the project site and foresee that being the norm on all jobs. The plan is to buy their own bikes. Mitchell continues: “Once purchased we are planning on putting one of our operatives through cargo bike training so that we can use the cargo bike to collect and deliver products/materials to the project on a full- time basis. This service being supplied by our client means that all subcontractors can use/ book cargo bike deliveries throughout the project, encouraging the use of cargo bikes and reducing the commercial barrier that may be slowing their usage and positive effect on the environment.”

Is this all something merchants can pursue? It depends on where you operate, cooperation of builders and if there is support from your local authority. But if these major contractors are serious then merchants might need to respond to customer expectations. It is also worth following what HSS Hire is considering. Again, due to the work of Barratt, its team in London has trialled e-cargo bikes and is researching how viable they might be at specific central London depots. Bearing in mind that HSS also works in partnership with some independent merchants you might find an e-cargo bike in your yard very soon carrying power tools and anything else your customers might need, sooner than later. BMJ

April 2021 29

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