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How to Make Cargo Bikes Mainstream in a Car-free City

Oliver Ivens, MP Smarter Travel

17 September 2021/Categories: PTRC News

London is moving to a largely car-free future. With ULEZ, LTNs, Streetspace and Liveable Neighbourhoods encouraging rapid change in business operations, many are searching for car-free solutions to satisfy their delivery and servicing needs. Luckily, with an expected 50-60% annual market growth over the coming years, the cargo bike industry is growing rapidly to fill the demand from businesses for zero-emission delivery methods that navigate modal filters with ease.

Despite all of the environmental and operational advantages of using cargo bikes over diesel/petrol vehicles for appropriate inner-city deliveries, there remains an educational gap to seeing cargo bike use become a mainstream delivery method for businesses across UK cities. 

With a climate emergency declared and businesses needing immediate support, MP Smarter Travel are working to accelerate the uptake of cargo bikes by directly engaging businesses, encouraging them to use 3rd-party cargo bike services or to buy their own bikes.

Through MP Smarter Travel’s work with Team London Bridge (Bikes for Business), Brighton & Hove (eCargo bike Accelerator Project), LB Islington (Cleaner Deliveries, Smarter Business) and LB Brent (Cargo bike trial) we’ve spoken with thousands of businesses. So how do we help make cargo bikes mainstream?

1.       Business engagement

Bespoke outbound business engagement is key to encouraging an acceleration in the growth of the cargo bike market. MP Smarter Travel have successfully operated a brokerage-like service, pairing businesses with cargo bike operators or suggesting the best cargo bike model to purchase. Using a subsidy and case studies of similar businesses, we nudge decision makers to choose the cargo bike option for delivery and servicing.

In our first award-winning Bikes for Business project, working in Central London and funded by Team London Bridge and TfL, we converted 330 weekly diesel/petrol trips to cargo bike. Our local street counts showed a 467% rise in the number of cargo bikes in the local area, noticeably increasing the number of cargo bikes on the streets.

2.       Cargo bike funding

Cargo bikes are often seen as expensive bicycles, ranging from £2,000 to £12,000 depending on the style, capacity, and presence of electric assist; they are sizeable business investments. At MP Smarter Travel we work to alter business perceptions of the bikes, labelling them as zero-emission van replacements, and with a 400kg maximum capacity and range of up to 80km this is not an unrealistic label.

Cargo bike purchases are tax deductible, eligible for the government’s super-deduction allowance and there’s currently a grant available in England for 40% off the cost of a cargo bike, up to a maximum of £4,500. There has never been a better time to buy a cargo bike! With all of these deductions, a £7,585.00 bike can be bought for £2,259.58. Such large discounts are helping businesses see cargo bike purchases as a no-brainer. MP Smarter Travel believe cargo bikes should be supported with even more funding, proportional to that offered for electric van purchases.

3.       3rd party cargo bike services

There are hundreds of organisations across the UK offering professional services delivered by cargo bike, from couriers to tradespeople. The growing range of professional cargo bike services is giving businesses a car-free alternative to their current deliveries. As the range of services develops, they are bringing cargo bikes into the mainstream.

Overall, cargo bikes are becoming more mainstream, spurred by a growing range of services, national and local funding and business engagement. The growth of clean air zones is also placing pressure on businesses to choose the zero-emission option. Additionally, the already established continental European cargo bike markets continue to grow, giving confidence to UK cargo bike manufacturers, retailers, and cargo bike advocates that the same is coming to the UK. With an estimated 51% of all freight journeys in cities eligible to be completed by cargo bike, they represent a very tangible solution to urban freight in our increasingly car-free cities.


Follow this link for more information about the live Bikes for Business project.

To discuss increasing cargo bike uptake in your area, contact


About MP Smarter Travel

MP Smarter Travel is a consultancy that helps create better places by promoting walking, cycling and other zero emissions transport.

Working with local councils, businesses, schools and the public, MP Smarter Travel deliver award-winning projects to promote cleaner air, stronger local economies and better places to live and work. Since starting in 2012 MP Smarter Travel's services include cargo bike initiatives, school travel plans, public and business engagement programs and environmental education workshops. Based in London, MP Smarter Travel was founded on the principle of creating sustainable neighbourhoods and business districts that are inviting and accessible to everyone.

For more information, please visit




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