Evaluating the impact of using cargo cycles in city logistics

The European Commission has promoted actions and policies with the aim of reducing the negative impacts on traffic and environment caused by city logistics. One increasingly popular measure is the use of cargo bikes in city logistics due to their improved energy efficiency, lower emissions and lower traffic disturbance.

Evaluation of cargo bikes in city logistics
A new paper by Sandra Melo and Patrícia Baptista from Portugal assess the impacts of electric cargo bikes, from a public policy perspective and, simultaneously, taking into account variables that cover the urban logistics operators’ interests. Under a public policy perspective, the considered variables evaluate mobility, environmental impacts and indirectly, the quality of life. In terms of private interests, the studied variables cover costs levels (operation and driving) and efficiency.

This evaluation aims at clarifying if electric cargo bikes can indeed represent a sustainable mobility policy under specific boundaries, by leading to better environmental and social impacts and not hindering the operational efficiency of urban logistics activities.

For that purpose, the measurement of the traffic key performance indicators, as well as of Well-to-Wheel (WTW) energy and CO2 emission savings is performed allowing to quantify mobility, reliability and operational efficiency indicators. Several scenarios related with the introduction of electric cargo bikes replacing conventional vans were assessed and evaluated in order to compare the effects of different market shares in the mobility of the studied area located in Porto (Portugal). Acknowledging the short distance range of cargo bikes, the simulation is carried out and an estimation of the total transportation cost is performed, which includes transport and emission cost when the vehicle is driving, emission cost while idling and labor cost.


The main conclusion is that cargo bikes can replace up to 10% of the conventional vans in areas with maximum linear distances of about 2 km, without changing the overall network efficiency. Additionally, urban logistics WTW CO2 emission impacts can be reduced by up to 73%, which represents 746 kg of CO2 avoided emissions. Furthermore, the introduction of electric cargo bikes in urban logistics activities has positive effects for all the vehicle categories and all the scenarios, reaching up to 25% of reductions in external costs.

As a result, cargo bikes implemented at the appropriate spatial scale within the city can be a sustainable solution for urban logistics, depending on a prior delimitation of the conditions and adequate implementation strategy, to guarantee that it actually leads to improvements in terms of mobility, environment, energy, running costs and externalities.


Melo, S., & Baptista, P. (2017). Evaluating the impacts of using cargo cycles on urban logistics: integrating traffic, environmental and operational boundaries. European Transport Research Review, (2), 30.

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