When you think of shipping cargo, you probably imagine large boxes being hauled onto cargo planes and then tossed onto trucks. Road bikes probably don't even cross your mind, but there is a growing market for urban cargo delivery by bike. No longer are bicycle delivery people limited to the lightweight simplicities of newspapers and Chinese takeout. Road bikes provide an optimal solution for efficient cargo delivery in many major cities, and more and more businesses are starting to take notice.
Why Use Road Bikes for Urban Cargo Delivery?
Hauling urban cargo can be a daunting task, assuming that you lack the proper means of transportation. A fixed-gear bike would be extremely inefficient—not to mention downright painful—for cargo delivery because without a freewheel, you would be forced to bear the full weight of your load without any support. But road bikes can actually make cargo delivery easy and fun. They're designed for speed and endurance and they're capable of pulling cargo almost effortlessly.
But in major cities, there are other advantages to using road bikes for hauling cargo. For starters, a bicycle can move from one end of the city to the other in a fraction of the time it would take a delivery truck during peak traffic hours. Additionally, bicycle delivery is far more cost-effective. There are no fuel costs, low maintenance costs, and very little training required. Best of all, bicycle urban cargo delivery creates jobs for a wide demographic of people.
The Obstacles and Difficulties
This issue was recently the subject of a freight delivery panel hosted by the University Transportation Research Center. Despite the apparent advantages, many companies find it difficult to win over potential clients who are skeptical of a bicycle's ability to handle heavy freight. Additionally, some of the skeptics at the panel objected that bicycles are simply limited in where they can travel, especially while carrying heavy freight. Some cities, including New York City, impose strict regulations on electric bicycles (which are commonly used for freight) and bridges often impose barriers to prevent bicyclists from crossing.
There are challenges associated with any commute, but when you weigh the pros against the cons, it seems worthwhile for more businesses to consider the potential opportunities afforded by bicycle delivery. For the time being, though, it appears that this will remain a fairly small niche market, at least until our major streets become more accessible to cyclists and motorists alike.