At Fourth Floor we're leading experts in cargo bikes and providing last-mile solutions. Our bikes are used across North America by governments, NGO's and businesses and we've been asked to speak in front of companies like UPS, Canada Post, and Sidewalk Labs and government from the City of Toronto to the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Why a bike for your business or organization? If your business or organization is in the city, then the answer answer is simple: access.
It is an undeniable fact that a bicycle has far greater access inside a city than a car does. This is because density has increased while distances have shrunk. Studies have shown that point-to-point travel in dense urban areas is always faster by bike, even more true in cities congested with cars.
Unlike a car, a bike has free movement and free parking in the city. Those two efficiencies - movement and parking - is what defines urban transportation (and concomitantly, infrastructure). For a delivery company this means congestion-free travel and detour-free parking. For mobile retailers this means you can meet your customer where they hang out, rather than them finding you. And, for a hotel it means delighting your clients with the best possible means to be tourists in your city. Access, in other words, is highly monetizable; it lets you meet your clients, deliver faster and at lower cost, and build brand while delighting your customers. That's a lot to build on!
But, buying a bike for business builds something larger too. A bike for business builds better cities, builds better health, and builds a better environment. That's something your customers believe in and they're hoping you do to. We like to call it being a better 'Roll Model.' Helping build a world of better Roll Models is something we're deeply invested in; that's why we've made it our mission to offer the best portfolio of bikes for business supported by a team of experts; from mechanics to fabricators to graphic designers. Interested? Let us tell you more!
So, what to look for when buying a cargo bike? The answers are:
As Richard Florida has observed, cities today are undergoing a "third wave", where the distance from home to work has suddenly shrunk after decades of expanding suburbs. In a short time, city centres have become centres of wealth, and this wealth has taken the form of greater urban density. Want proof? Perhaps the most striking correlation between wealth and density is tied to real estate value and the tools we use to measure this value. Today property value is tied to "walk scores," a metric that fundamentally measures the density and therefore the proximity of ones life. The closer work and amenities are to home, the higher the walk score, and the higher the property value.
As a result, urban distances have shrunk, and this density has created a new set of problems: bottlenecks, congestion. And, this congestion has become costly. It is now estimated that 28% of a courier companies cost to deliver a package occurs in the "last mile." When that last mile is a congested city of gridlocked movement and parking detours, that shouldn't be surprising.
Since 2015, DHL in Europe now uses two-wheeled, lightweight, e-assist Bullitt cargo bikes in thirteen countries, across 50 cities and 80+ routes. Since 2015, cargo bikes now represent 10% of all DHL trips. That may not seem like a lot, but 60% of these trips are in dense city cores - and growing. While a cargo bike might not be able to take care of the trip to the distribution centre or from the distribution centre to the feeder, nothing has more free movement or parking in the last mile than a cargo bike.
The same is true for fleet bike programs. We sold the City of Toronto a fleet bike program for their employees when they realized that inter-office travel was consuming tax-payer dollars in gridlocked taxi's. Fleet bike programs are also based on the same research principles around the "last mile." Studies in Holland show the average trip downtown rarely exceeds five miles, a distance that is simply too close to drive and too far to walk. Perhaps this too-close-to-drive and too-far-to-walk distance is the best way to define the "last mile." That's why in Holland, most "last-mile" trips are handled by bicycle.
Finally, in a dense and congested city it shouldn't be surprising to find that people like to enjoy themselves in car-free zones. We've sold cargo bike fleets to the Shangri-La Hotel, Drake Hotel, and Mr C Hotels so that their guests can access the city freely and enjoy it without barriers. Likewise, we've sold tons of cargo bikes to companies like Foodora and Coca Cola who want branding vehicles that can engage and transact equally off-the-streets and on-the-streets. That's the thing about a business bike; it has an an all-access-pass to the city.
It's also an undeniable fact that a bicycle costs far less than a vehicle. In 2010 we sold a fleet of bikes to Toronto's Not Far From The Tree, a volunteer-based NGO who collect un-picked fruit from back yards (over 148,000lbs harvested!) and donate 1/3rd to the homeowner, 1/3rd to the volunteers and 1/3rd to a local food bank. While using a bike around town fit the organizations ethos, it was hard to shift away from the default role a motor vehicle plays. Until they did the math. With multiple sites to serve at a time, one van wouldn't be enough. And, the cost of a single van was the same price as x12 cargo bikes, and that didn't include the added costs of insurance, fuel costs, and repairs - easily another $8000. As one of our first fleet customers, Not Far From The Tree was definitely thinking out of the box, and they knew they were pioneering proof-of-concept for cargo bike use in Toronto (they might well be the first fleet of cargo bikes in North America). Today, Not Far From The Tree has added another x3 bikes (all e-assist) to their fleet.
The same is true for DHL in Europe. Each cargo bike replaced an entire van. Sure, the cargo bike needs to go back-and-forth more often between the feedering depot, but with better access and more efficiency, less-onboard space didn't translate into slower delivery time. With an equal amount of packages delivered on time, huge costs were saved on motor-vehicles, parking and parking tickets, insurance, maintenance and fuel.
Then there's cargo bikes that play the role of company van. Many of our customers, whether they're restaurants like Brothers in Toronto or Hundred Acres in NYC, Hotels like Algonquin Resort or even schools/daycares like Toronto's Island Montessori use a cargo bike to pick up supplies or drop supplies off (or kids). While Not Far From the Tree got x12 cargo bikes for the price of a van, these places got a cargo bike instead of a van. That's a lot of money left in your pocket.
In a dense, congested city a bike is more efficient because it can cut though gridlock. But if all those cars were taken away, would a bike still be faster? The answer is yes.
This is confirmed by multiple North American studies and most recently, a 2017 study from the German Federal Environmental Agency, which determined that–in an urban setting–bikes are faster than cars for trips up to five kilometres. More importantly, it concluded that e-assist bikes increase that distance to 10km. As Chris from Modacity says, "it turns out drivers vastly underestimate time spent sitting in traffic, searching for parking, and walking to their final destination." That's the truth.
That's why DHL chose e-assist bikes as their platform in Europe. If the figurative "last mile" is actually several miles, or, involves hills, the e-assist not only flattens hill but has significant power, meaning it can accelerate rider, bike and cargo all with 60+ km on a single charge. It's the same reason the City of Toronto chose a bicycle fleet program for their employees. Sure, one aspect was again to lower cost, but at the same time to ensure meetings aren't held hostage by gridlock. It's the same reason restaurants, daycares, and schools opt for a cargo bike to get the job done faster than a motor vehicle.
Time is money. And, while delivery companies bring the product to you, it's also equally true for a mobile kiosk, where you bring the product to the customer. Not only is your product accessible on-and-off the streets, all free movement and parking is monetizable. You've saved your customer time, and that's worth money.
Thankfully, in todays world companies are beginning to understand that they have an environmental responsibility. PostNL in Holland has said that by 2025 all package delivery (using Centaur cargo bikes) in the Benelux region will be carbon neutral. DHL, for instance, plans to reduce their CO2 emissions by 30% for the year 2020.
We're not saying bicycles can replace motor vehicles, but they do have their place. If this place is given, this positively effects people, planet and profit. Motor vehicles are environmentally costly, according to the ECF a cars production counts for 42g of CO2 per kilometre driven. But, it's the act of driving that really bumps things up; driving emits over 270g of CO2 per kilometre.
Compared to this, a bicycles production only costs 5g per kilometre ridden. And, even with a rich meat diet, cycling only emits 21g of CO2 per year, more than ten times less than a car.
So, if your business or organization has a goal of reducing emissions, lowering cost and raising efficiency then you are well on your way to becoming more profitable too. You're what we call a good "roll model," and your clients will notice too.
Better Roll Model
In todays world of social media there is a strong correlation between 'likes' and profit. That's not a bad thing. Customer service is not just about transactions, it's about shared values and goodwill.
As a recent Forbes article stated, companies today must recognize that the largest transfer of wealth in the world is shifting from boomers to millennials, and millennials care about your companies social responsibility.
In 2015, Nielson published its annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report. It indicated that, globally, 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Millennials gave an even more impressive showing, with 73% of surveyed millennials indicating a similar preference. Additionally, 81% of millennials even expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship.
Brands like Fjallraven and Foodora get it. These are young brands that don't want to spend their advertising money on billboards or magazine ads - instead they'd rather publicly engage potential clients using a platform that demonstrates their own shared values.
Public engagement is one of these shared values, and its undeniable that a brand ambassador on a bike has significantly more public engagement that a brand ambassador in a motor vehicle. Bicycles are not only more engaging, they are all-access; that means they can meet people in parks or farmers markets, places where people allow themselves to be curious. But, more than that, a bicycle represents a different vision of the way we imagine our cities. Bicycles are tied to a vision of urban health, of living close to your friends, supporting local businesses, of cleaner air and more open civil engagement.
If this is your vision, it's also ours too. Best of all, this vision works. Not only is a bicycle your best brand statement, it lowers costs, increases efficiency and raises profits. It's good for your business, your customer, and the world.