Research: safe use of cargo bikes in city logistics

The Dutch Top Sector Logistics follows the developments of cargo bikes as a sustainable logistics alternative in city logistcs. Currently, in most countries, there is very little legislation on the design of cargo bikes in general, let alone freight cargo bikes. There is a lack of standards, so manufacturers develop cargo bikes according to their own insight and specifications.

Developments have been so rapid that electrically assisted cargo bikes plus cargo can collectively weigh more than 500 kg. This raises the question of how stability and controllability hold up, for example at higher speeds or when taking a sharp turn. The question was which aspects are important in practice, and how they can be tested in practice.

That is why the Dutch HAN ARL-A has started an independent experimental study on behalf of the Dutch Top Sector Logistics into various aspects with regard to safety, stability, and use of these types of vehicles. Various manufacturers were approached from the Connekt network and delivered eight different cargo bikes for the study. HAN looked at braking behavior, stability, construction, and range under different weather conditions; loaded and unloaded.

Investigating the different cargo bikes which were made available for this project it is apparent that most of the common cargo bikes will fall/roll over before they lose traction and slide and stability-wise this is, therefore, the biggest potential danger. How the cargo bikes are loaded and what with, therefore has a large influence on how they behave on the road.

It could also be seen that many bikes failed the brake-tests and displayed inadequate ability to brake, especially in the case of only applying brakes from a single axle. In many situations, this can be dangerous and may contribute to accidents. The bikes’ inability to meet the requirements set forth further underlines the importance of having a set of standards regulating the bikes, otherwise potentially unsafe bikes can be sold legally without the customer’s knowledge of the bike’s abilities.

While a series of tests, which are easy to use, was developed for use in the future for both legislators and manufacturers, it can be concluded that more tests should be added to ensure the stability of the cargo bikes is sufficient. Some bikes would appear to be unstable in certain situations like when cornering with the maximum cornering angle the bike was capable of, however, this did not necessarily show in the current test-results.



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