Cargo Bike Sharing: A Fun Way For Families To Move

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Last week our CEO, Sandra Phillips, asked our network whether or not they own an electric cargo bike. The results were mixed, surprisingly, the majority claiming they had never thought about it. The other top two reasons for not owning a cargo bike were that it was too expensive and that they didn’t have enough space. Two very valid reasons which is why our recommendation would be: cargo bike sharing!

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Given the rising popularity of cargo bikes for delivery and personal transportation purposes, there’s been a simultaneous surge in demand for cargo bike-sharing solutions. And for very good reason. Electric cargo bikes are tough enough to transport a small family and up to 500L of products but there are also good for the planet. Recent reports have found that cargo bikes are more than 1.5 times faster than delivery vans and are able to deliver more packages in the same amount of time than their gas-fueled counterparts. The Promise of Low Carbon Freight study also found that during a three month period, cargo bikes helped save a total of 3,896 kilograms of CO2 and 5.5 kilograms of nitrogen oxide.

Fun For The Whole Family

Electric cargo bikes are arguably the most fun and enjoyable method for transporting your kids from A to B. Parents, especially moms, travel a lot. On any given day, parents can be dropping kids off at school, traveling to work, picking up groceries, bringing the kids to playdates – the list is endless. Without a car, these tasks seem to be impossible. However, in a world were owning a private car has become less appealing and a generation of socially and environmentally shared mobility users has arisen, an electric cargo bike makes running these errands a very real possibility.

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Image: Christian Brandt (Regional Fleet Manager, Okanagan & Vancouver Island at Modo) and family

With an electric cargo bike, you won’t get stuck in rush hour traffic or deal with the stress of trying to find a parking space. Cargo e-bikes allow users to simultaneously work out, take their kids on a joyride, and stop and chat with their neighbors – if they feel like it. If you find you don’t have the space or the funds to purchase your own personal cargo bike, here are some of the top cargo bike share operators currently dominating the market.

Major Players 

As of now, cargo bike sharing is a reality limited mainly to Europe. Germany is by far the leading country with 185 services already available in over 150 cities. In Austria there are cargo bike sharing schemes operating in 11 cities. In Switzerland there are programs operating in over 90 cities and communities, all but one through the carvelo2go, an app-based sharing platform for booking and using cargo bikes, operated by Mobility Academy AG in partnership with TCS. 

Carvelo2Go is the world’s first cargo bike sharing initiative and, with over 330 vehicles (as its 2020 report) still has one of the biggest reported fleets for this type of service. Carvelo2go’s business model differs from the traditional shared micromobility schemes that we’ve come to expect. The bikes are parked at businesses or restaurants, where the batteries and keys to the bikes are handed over to users. In return, these companies can use the cargo bikes themselves free of charge for 25 hours a month. These hosts are locally established businesses such as bakeries, shops, cafes or restaurants. Users pay an hourly rate online and then pick the cargo bike up from the host, dropping it back off when they‘re finished. The company claims that 40% of its trips are used to replace journeys with cars. 

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Carvelo2go Cargo Bike. Source: https://www.fia.com/news/tcs-carvelo2go-continues-expansion-switzerland

Apart from the revenue that comes from the individual user rate, the company received start-up funding from the Migros Pioneer Fund, sponsorship from TCS and developed partnership models with cities. Contributions from participating cities have been deliberately kept low to ensure the company does not have to depend on complex government tenders or concession processes.

The largest fleet of shared cargo-bikes however (as far as we were able to identify), composed of over 400 vehicles, currently belongs to Cargoroo. Cargoroo is a Dutch company launched in 2017 that operates in a total of 10 cities, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium, but also including Berlin. Cargoroo operates on an app-based-roundtrip business model, where bikes have a designated-station. Last September the operator established a partnership with Dutch MaaS provider Gaiyo, so their bikes can also now be booked through Gaiyo’s app. Shortly after, Cargoroo also partnered with the City of Manchester and has been operating the city’s cargo bike sharing scheme (composed of 25 vehicles) since December 2021. 

The other two big players in the market are BAQME (from the Netherlands) and AvoCargo (from Germany). Both companies have had a somewhat similar trajectory so far, as, both raised around 1 million dollars each in their pre-seed funding round since both companies launched in 2021. While BAQME, whose app is powered by Joyride, currently operates a fleet of 250 vehicles in 3 cities, AvoCargo has reportedly over 110 cargo-bikes in Berlin and Munich. Both companies cater to both B2C and B2B clients, and AvoCargo has developed an interesting partnership system with stores in Berlin where those stores cover part of the costs of a AvoCargo ride for their customers. BAQME recently announced that it was partnering with Dott to launch a fleet of mixed regular e-bikes and cargo ones in Ghent in Belgium.

Sigo, a German operator founded in 2020, is also worthy of mention given that it currently operates in 25 cities and partnering with housing companies, municipalities and energy suppliers. The database with info on all mapped out providers can be found here. 

Sharing is Caring 

The fantastic world of cargo bike sharing, however, is by no means an exclusivity of big-ass-for-profit-VC-funded companies. In both Austria and Germany, one can find projects operating with few, and sometimes even a single, vehicle which can be borrowed for free. That’s the case of LaRa, a Wiener Neustadt-based joint project between the city and an association founded by committed private individuals that launched the country’s first free shared cargo-bike. In Innsbruck, similarly, the fleet of 2 bikes was brought to operation by a partnership between a crowdfunding initiative and the state government.

In this landscape, one project stands out. fLotte currently has 233 bookable cargo bikes in Berlin and Brandenburg, including pedal powered and electric vehicles. Since its start in January 2018 with only 5 vehicles, the project has gained 14,514 users. The project, powered by the ADFC (General German Bicycle Club), is made possible by over 500 volunteers who do everything from managing the operations to serving as “paramedics” (mechanics) and more. Similar to the carvelo2go model, the bikes stay parked in locations provided by the volunteers who will “check-out” the bike for the user who has to reserve the vehicle on the project’s website. 

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fLotte Cargo Bike. Source: https://use.metropolis.org/case-studies/flotte-berlin-and-flotte-kommunal

Freight & Delivery 

Last month Amazon made headlines by announcing the opening its first “micromobility” hub in Hackney, east London. The hub launched a fleet of e-cargo bikes, which will be operated by a variety of partner businesses, not directly by Amazon, and is supposed to replace thousands of van deliveries.1 

In Canada, last summer the provincial government of British Columbia provided $200,000 in funding to support a pilot project in the City of Vancouver for a cargo e-bike, micro-hub facility. The project was supposed to run for 14 months, theoretically ending about now. An evaluation was scheduled for Spring 2022, however we couldn’t find any published results at the moment. 

The vancouver-based project was not the first of its kind in Canada. The Colibri project, launched in September 2019 in Montreal and by April 2021, ensured the daily delivery of up to 800 packages. A similar program was also announced last month by the Mayor of Toronto in partnership with Purulator and Toronto Parking Authority. The two Urban Quick Stop mini hubs in Toronto are supposed to operate a full retail services (for customers to drop off and pick up shipments) and a grand total of five electric cargo e-bikes to deliver packages to the surrounding areas.

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Colibri eCargo Bike Project. Source: https://ebikes-international.com/montreals-colibri-ecargo-bike-project-is-a-rising-star-in-sustainable-mobility/

E-cargo bikes are also becoming part of the fleet of several delivery companies. UPS announced in June that it would start using Pedal-Powered Delivery Bike-Van-Thingies in NYC. FedEx that deployed 43 vehicle in Canada since the start of a pilot project in 2020. The company has since expanded the e-bike program across the country in Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal, Calgary, Richmond, Vancouver and Windsor. The company is currently operating ebikes in countries such as Germany, England, India, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, however the global ebike fleet of 250 e-bikes is still not more than a drop in the bucket given the over 150,000 vehicles from two to 18 wheels that the company owns. Canada Post too has launched in 2021 a pilot program to test e-bikes in Montreal which was considered a success and is to be expanded in the upcoming months. But the e-cargo bikes are not being used only by big players. In recent years a series of companies specialized in pedal-powered deliveries have been gaining traction, including Pedal Me, Velocious and Zedify. 

What the Future Looks like for Cargo Bike Sharing

For people who need to transport anything and everything beyond themselves, cargo bikes offer a true alternative to cars, even more so than scooters or mopeds. We see huge potential in this space, in Europe and beyond. It’s been reported that more than half of all freight journeys in cities could be carried out via cargo bikes.

They allow us to transport goods, pets, our children, even other adults. And yet, for most people, it doesn’t make sense to own one. They cost quite a bit of money and many of us only need them a few times a week. A lack of storage space in urban houses and the risk of theft come on top of that. Basically, an ideal setting for sharing. Shared, electric cargo bikes are the next level of new mobility and will help us take another giant leap towards cities that no longer require privately owned cars. Not because they replace cars, but because they go beyond A to B.


If you are interested in micromobility and in particular the rise of bike sharing, make sure you download our free whitepaper, Electric Bike Sharing.

Want to help us launch an electric cargo bike share program in North America, reach out to info@movmi.net.

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