A report by the University of Westminister has found that, despite the fact that increased use of cargo bikes in last-mile logistics has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the sector in its current state poses financial and health risks to many riders.
The university conducted interviews with riders and managers from 15 different cargo bike companies to examine the impact of the recent logistics transport option.
Dr Ersilia Verlinghieri, senior research fellow at the University of Westminster and lead researcher on the project, said: “Cargo bikes can provide a reliable alternative to van deliveries, and they contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and improving public space.
“But this sector can truly thrive only if it centres its growth on prioritising the health and wellbeing of its workers, rather than allowing commercial considerations to be the primary driver of decisions.”
As part of the report, the researchers called for policymakers and cargo bike companies to develop and implement an action plan to improve the sector in six key areas: ensuring fair employment, scaling up the sector, improving cycling infrastructure, improving health and safety, improving communication practises, and adopting a clear equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy.
One of the most concerning revelations was that every single on of the female and non-binary couriers interviewed reported experiencing physical or sexual harassment while conducting deliveries on the road.
However, if more deliveries are relying on riders of cargo bikes, it is important that these workers are being fairly employed and their safety is ensured while cycling around the UK’s streets.
Cargo bikes also create far fewer greenhouse gas emissions and offer the further environmental benefits of reduced road congestion and improved air quality.