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Low-carbon freight can carry the load

The heat is on the Australian transport sector to front up to its responsibilities to reduce emissions and help cool our planet.

Time is running out as the climate crisis looms closer day-by-day.

Change is hard, but there are smaller initiatives that we can get on with today.

For example, cargo bikes can be a quick, easy and cost-effective first step.

A new study from London shows that a rapid roll-out of cargo-toting bicycles can quickly deliver serious CO2 reductions where they replace the ubiquitous white diesel van.

About 10% of van kilometres in London could be easily replaced by cargo bike services, the study found.

And this would lead to saving as much as 133,300 tonnes of CO2 and 190.4 thousand Kg of NOx per year.

At the same time, it would reduce urban congestion and free a total of 384,000 sqm of public space usually occupied by parked vans and 16,980 hours of vehicle traffic per day.

These benefits are not just specific to London, with the 100,000 cargo bikes introduced in Europe between 2018-2020 estimated to be saving, each month, the same amount of CO2 needed to fly about 24,000 people from London to New York and back, i.e. 80 Boeing 777-300 flying over 890,000km.

Some of the benefits available are rarely even thought about, let alone calculated.

For example, the 213,100 vans owned by Londoners, when parked outside, occupy around 2,557,200 sqm of road space, the equivalent of just under twice the size of London’s massive Hyde Park.

In London alone, between 2015 and 2017, vans and trucks together were involved in 32% of total fatal collisions.

The report makes 11 key recommendations to support the adoption of cargo bikes:
  1. A clear national  strategy to support non-motorised freight, backed by bike lane infrastructure cure provision.
  2. A road-user charging regime that discourages inefficient and polluting freight modes.
  3. Increase the current 250w power output for e-cargo bikes up to 1000w, while retaining the assist cut-out at 25kph.
  4. Regulation to enable cargo bikes to apply for operators licenses to carry people.
  5. Standardised insurance, safety regulations and operator training.
  6. Proper regulation to ensure fair competition, and prevent exploitation of workers.
  7. Declaration of more low emission zones and neighbourhoods in urban centres.
  8. More official support for trials of cargo bike systems to test assumption in real world conditions.
  9. Official support fro freight consolidation centres for cargo bike hubs.
  10. Proper parking facilities, and e-charging points.
  11. Adoption by the public sector.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.