Research by Jochen Maes: are cargo bikes more expensive?

Cargo bikes may be cleaner, faster and quieter. But today, cargo bikes are more expensive than light commercial vans. ‘Only local policy measures can reverse that.’ According to Jochen Maes (University of Antwerps in Belgium) they find it difficult to compete with the conventional delivery based on his Phd study.


For each delivery it costs a light commercial van € 3.50 euro. For a cargo bike that is € 4.52 euro. What causes this difference? According to Jochen Maes: ‘It is a matter of volume. The van can take more parcels. For example, a typical van serves 65 customers on a working day, while that a cargo bike is 35 to 40. If you want the same volume delivered you need two couriers, and then the labor costs will increase. ‘

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External cost

The social benefits of delivery by cargo bikes are not calculated in these cost. Cargo bikes make no noise, do not contribute to congestion and score better on road safety. Maes: ‘If you calculate these so-called external costs, then the bicycle will be much cheaper: € 4.52 per delivery, compared to € 6.05 for the van.’

To include these costs in the invoice is a ‘difficult discussion’, Maes admits. ‘Vans do not pay a kilometer charge such as the big trucks, because otherwise the SMEs outside the transport sector would also be affected. Because they are workhorses in so many companies, they are also less taxed than cars.’

Read the thesis here.

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