Cargo bikes: Infrastructure requirements

The sales figures of cargo bikes have been rising steadily in recent years - a trend that has been further strengthened by the pandemic. The trend is continuing: a large number of people are already using cargo bikes as a sustainable alternative to cars. However, in everyday life, riders repeatedly encounter difficulties, for example in terms of road layout. Improved cycling infrastructure can further increase the use of cargo bikes.

Which obstacles do cargo bike users encounter during their journeys and how can cities be made more cargo bike friendly - these and other questions have been addressed by researchers in transport planning at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (UAS). In their research project "Requirements of cargo bikes on the infrastructure", they interviewed riders about their experiences in the context of cargo bike use. The aim of the project was to explore the requirements that cargo bikes bring with them in terms of infrastructure. Special attention was paid to the analysis of obstacles in road traffic and a subsequent preparation of recommendations for action for traffic and infrastructure planning. The focus of the project was on privately used cargo bikes in the Rhine-Main region.

Cargo bikes: Popular in private use

167,000 cargo bikes were sold in Germany in 2021. The positive development of the sales figures illustrates the current interest in cargo bikes in urban transport. In terms of private use, the most common scenarios are shopping and transporting children; two-thirds of respondents mainly use their cargo bike for weekly shopping. However, the cargo bikes are also used as everyday bikes, for example for commuting to work and for bicycle tours. Specifically, slightly more than 23 percent mainly use the cargo bike for commuting. Pet owners also like to use the means of transport for carrying their pets. The respondents consider the use of cargo bikes to be particularly sensible and positive in terms of traffic relief and climate protection. This kind of social rethinking promotes public communication of the topic and increases the pressure for action to expand the associated infrastructure.

Development potential in infrastructure

Bollards with a small distance, cycle paths with tight curves, traffic grids at level crossings or main roads - these and similar traffic infrastructure obstacles are often still encountered by cargo bike users when riding in the city centre. The respondents also see the condition of cycle paths and roads as well as barriers, speed bumps, cobblestones, narrow subways and kerbs that are too high as challenges. The cycling infrastructure should therefore be adapted even more to the needs of cargo bikes in the future. The parking facilities for these bicycles are also classified as expandable.

Furthermore, in metropolitan infrastructures, cycle paths are sometimes merged with footpaths, which can create friction points between the different road users. And yet: the use of cargo bikes has great potential. Infrastructure planning that is suitable for cargo bikes would convince even more people to switch to cargo bikes - and to do without their cars.

Regional differences in taking the cargo bike on public transport

Many cargo bike users would also like to see more intensive links between cycling and public transport. This is because the combined use of cargo bikes and public transport faces hurdles such as lifts and escalators that are too small or too little parking space in the passenger compartment. The regulations for local public transport vary greatly from region to region: in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, for example, cargo bikes are allowed on board, but in Berlin they are explicitly prohibited. Even in long-distance transport, the carriage of cargo bikes with fixed bodies or trikes is prohibited - which means that the Deutsche Bahn AG contradicts the political guidelines in the national cycling plan.

Transport planning should take greater account of cargo bikes

In order to make the urban infrastructure more cargo bike friendly, concrete recommendations for action were worked out in the UAS research project. On the one hand, the procurement and use of cargo bikes should be made more low-threshold. Subsidies are often only available to businesses and are limited to cities or federal states. Ideally, all citizens should have the same opportunity to receive a subsidy when purchasing a cargo bike.

On the other hand, the use of bicycles should be established as a matter of course among the population, for example by strengthening the topic in politics. Uniform federal framework conditions such as standardised infrastructure measures could be a way to achieve approximate equality between two-wheelers and passenger cars. The barriers to use compared to other means of transport should be reduced.

Furthermore, the existing potentials should also be used in local public transport: With multimodal mobility stations - a connection of car-sharing, cargo bikes and public transport - for example, the ownership of a car could become unnecessary in the future. In large cities, transport bikes optimise the use of space and traffic-calmed zones are increasingly created - consequently, the quality of life also improves. Cycling should therefore become just as popular in the future as driving a car is today. Because: In the course of the traffic turnaround, cargo bikes are an indispensable component in the mobility mix.

The most important driver of the mobility transition is the increasing number of cargo bike riders. Vehicle fleets in companies and the public sector can set a good example. We would be happy to support you in selecting the right cargo bikes for your company. For this purpose, we offer you a four-week test phase. Please contact us.