The experiences and wellbeing of cargo bike riders must be taken into account as the sector grows, according to a new research report by the University of Westminster.
Through interviews with riders and managers from 15 different cargo bike companies, the university found companies struggle to provide riders with secure work and pay reflective of the skills required for the job.
While, riders reported that they have to navigate a highly car-centric environment and often are subject to aggression from drivers who do not regard cargo bikes as legitimate road users.
Furthermore, all of the female and non-binary couriers interviewed recounted experiences of physical or sexual harassment whilst out on the road.
Researchers are now calling for policymakers and the cargo bike companies to develop and implement an action plan around six key areas to improve working conditions for the sector. The report has recommended the sector ensures fair employment, scales up the sector, improves cycling infrastructure, improves health and safety, improves communication practises, and adopts a clear equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategy.
“This sector can truly thrive only if it centres its growth on prioritising the health and wellbeing of its workers, rather than allowing commercial considerations to be the primary driver of decisions,” said Ersilia Verlinghieri, lead researcher and senior research fellow at the University of Westminster.
“Grounded in the lived experiences of cargo bike riders, our report highlights the improvements required for truly green and good growth in the sector.”
Additionally, the research, funded by Impact on Urban Health, aimed to showcase the benefits of cargo bikes in reducing delivery times, traffic congestion, carbon emissions, air pollution and injury risk to other road users, compared to motorised vehicles.
James Cleeton, Sustrans London director, added: “As this new research shows, the cargo cycle sector has a vital role to play in ensuring our logistics sector is clean, green and efficient. But as that sector grows, we need to ensure the conditions of everyone working in the sector are high quality. Safety is key, so providing more separated cycle tracks and low traffic neighbourhoods is important.
“But what this research also reveals is how creating a chain of ‘couriers’ hubs’ across London could support riders and the growth of the industry. These hubs would provide sheltered public space for cycle courier, whether on e-bikes, e-cargo bikes or push bikes, to stop and rest in between or during deliveries, so would make a big difference.”