Will it get tight on the bike lanes of Germany?
Gregor Honsel commented on the development on the German bike lanes, expressing concern that it will get crowded and pushed for better infrastructure for ultralight vehicles. We would like to elaborate a bit further on the topic by having a look at the development in other countries and also explain the measures we have taken to minimise the negative impact on other cyclists.
The upsides of switching from vans to cargo bikes
Gregor rightly pointed out that by switching from vans to cargo bikes, where possible, it will make the air cleaner and help ease road congestion. This is not only because of eliminated tailpipe emissions, but also from the almost neglectable particle emissions from road, tyre and brake pad wear that all heavier motor vehicles have, also electric vans.
We would also like to add that resource and energy use is drastically reduced. Compared to a small electric van, our Armadillo electric assisted cargo bike only use 6 % of the electricity a small electric van needs when doing the exact same transport work. In times of urgent climate challenges and where the EU electricity mix is still at around 300 g CO2/kWH this is not insignificant. Compared to diesel vans, the savings are even bigger. For city inhabitants, eliminated tyre-to-road noise is also much appreciated.
As long as the bike courier is not fully enclosed by weather protective wind screens, there is also another positive effect: There is a face moving around instead of a vehicle. A face that can interact with other cyclists and pedestrians, instead of a piece of glass and steel. We think the social effect of this should not be underestimated.
German bike infrastructure
German bike infrastructure could perhaps be described as of intermediate quality. Far behind leading countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, but still in front of many other European countries. In our experience, the German bike infrastructure is at a comparable level as Swedish bike infrastructure, with big differences between cities.
In our opinion, all countries should have a close look at Dutch bike infrastructure. By simple measures, they created an environment where young and old have the full freedom to move around in their city, under their own power. Bike lanes are also wide enough so you can ride side by side. A sense of freedom that has to be experienced! And note, this is not achieved by banning cars. It is just about giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists. As a bonus, the liveability increases manifold as traffic is calmed.
In Copenhagen, 90 cm wide family cargo bikes are a common sight. 24 % of all families with small children have access to cargo bikes! This haven’t stopped the copenhageners from achieving one of the highest modal shares for biking in the world, now surpassing cars! And this happens even though the cargo bikes are used in rush hour.
Sometimes people say “we are not Copenhagen” when it comes to the possibility to increase cycling. It should not be forgotten that both the Danish and the Dutch had as car infested cities as all other European countries in the seventies. But they decided this was not what they wanted and started to plan differently.
What measures we have taken to minimise negative impact
You can’t deny that cargo bikes will have some negative impact for other cyclists, they do use up some of their space. But we strongly believe that the advantages for the city and the planet is bigger when vans are replaced, especially if the cargo bikes are designed to minimise the negative impact.
The Velove mission is to contribute to staying within 1,5 degree global warming. If we would discourage people from cycling it would conflict with our mission. That is why we have had bike path fit and minimised physical and visual obstruction as an important design objective.
By using four wheels and placing the courier in a comfortable seat, at the same height as you sit in a car, we achieve so high stability that we can put the cargo on top of the wheels instead of between, just like big trucks do. This means that we get maximum cargo capacity at a width that is comparable to what a regular cyclists use, only 86 cm. This is less than the family cargo bikes of Copenhagen! This is the most important measure we have taken to minimise negative impact for other cyclists.
Full suspension and high stability
The individual double wishbone suspension on all wheels allow the courier to ride at uneven surfaces at normal bike speeds. Similarly the high stability allows the courier to take corners at normal bike speeds. This means that the Velove Armadillo will seldom slow other cyclist down.
If you are an adult cyclist and ride behind an Armadillo, you will have your eyes above it, keeping your traffic overview.
The way forward
There is a great cycling movement in Germany, shifting people from cars to more active, city friendly and sustainable forms of mobility. We want to be a part of developing it, in co-operation with German cities!
We believe the dutch way of city planning is the way forward and suggest all German city planners and politicians interested in city planning to visit the Netherlands to study the bike infrastructure, if they haven't been there already. Why not go to one of the best cycling cities of the world, Groningen, and combine with seeing some great cargo bikes at the International Cargo Bike Festival?