Whether it’s weekly shopping or transporting children: the cargo bike market is growing. In addition to start-ups, more and more municipalities also want to put transport bikes on the road.
They are powered by muscles or electricity, have a large transport surface and often bear unusual names such as “Knight’s carriage” or “Wilde Hilde”: The rented cargo bikes can be seen on the streets of German cities. Such as over 200 electric bikes from the Avocargo start-up in Berlin. The young company was founded in the spring of 2021 – and now wants to expand its offer to 40,000 electric transport bikes in other cities in the coming years.
As the market develops and will certainly continue to do so in the future, Avocargo co-founder Matti Schurr believes. “Freight bikes are a very urban phenomenon these days.” Using the app, people can rent a means of transport for a fee around the clock and park it anywhere within a certain area. According to Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV), the number of cargo bikes sold last year rose to almost 170,000 (2020: 103,200).
The turn in city traffic
But not only commercial suppliers such as Avocargo, but also Sigo from Darmstadt or numerous free initiatives want to promote the project “cargo bike rental”. The municipalities themselves are also increasingly interested in alternative means of transport, says Marco Walter of the Transportrad Sustainable Municipalities Initiative (TINK). The company advises cities and municipalities that want to put cargo bikes on the streets and helps in tenders. “The trend clearly shows an increase,” says Walter.
Accordingly, 32 municipalities are currently advised, including for example Hanover and Dortmund. 25 municipalities exchange ideas on the TINK network, supported by the Federal Ministry of Transport. In the first half of this year, it increased by 28 percent. compared to 2021. “The provision of freight bikes has proved to be an effective contribution to improving the city’s traffic situation,” says Walter. Cities would make progress towards several policy goals, such as protecting the climate and facilitating traffic.
Only recently has the city of Cologne pledged to become the “cargo bike capital” and announced a two-year pilot project for a rental system. According to Walter, Sigo’s bikes are currently being tested in Lindau, Bavaria, and the regional bicycle dealer takes over the business in Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg. Nextbike bike rental also offers means of transport in ten cities, there are plans for three more communes.
The examples show that local authorities are interested in making their cities more attractive, says Arne Behrensen, managing director of Cargobike.jetzt, an agency and developer of cargo bike promotion projects. Transport bikes have enormous potential to replace car travel in the long run.
Schurr of Avocargo agrees with this statement: Many users use their bikes for tours that they would otherwise choose by car – for example in the weekly shop. A beekeeper in Berlin transports his beehives regularly and some also place furniture in the transport area. “We need to get to the point where cargo bikes are mainstream,” says Schurr. Especially in rural areas, the car is even more common in everyday life – because transport distances are usually longer there, which speaks for the car. Until now, cargo bikes have been a phenomenon mainly in cities.
Promote cargo bikes especially in rural areas
Especially in the countryside and in smaller towns, numerous free initiatives want to give their offers greater momentum. The cargo bike has become particularly well known thanks to local and voluntary networks that came together across Germany to form the “Free Cargo Bikes Forum” (FFL). Are they being replaced by commercial vendors now?
“On the contrary,” says Peter Eckhoff of the FFL. “We are happy to have any cargo bike that replaces car journeys.” Despite the commercialization, the forum expects that free cargo bikes will often remain the only offer in smaller towns and the countryside – and startups will have a tendency to play in big cities.
In addition, the user groups are sometimes different: while people can quickly book a bike from a company via the app, personal exchange is especially important for voluntary initiatives: people must first rent a cargo bike at certain locations where employees still have one, for example to clarify vehicle. This is important to some users, says Eckhoff. So you complement each other well.