Colchester Borough Council: eCargo bike library

Colchester eCargo bike library aims to break down barriers to the use of electric cargo (eCargo) bikes for deliveries instead of cars or vans. The Council got funding for 25 eCargo bikes and five electric trailers. 13 were given to 10 local organisations including Colchester Hospital and a new eCargo bike delivery service. Six are available for short term loans for local organisations, and the rest used by Council staff such as those in Neighbourhood services.

The challenge

Congestion is a big problem in Colchester, and is only increasing with more vans and cars transporting deliveries with the increase produced from online shopping. This leads to issues such as increased air and noise pollution, as well as increased carbon emissions. The challenges of economic hardship posed by COVID-19 has also meant that some businesses will need help to recover in a more environmentally friendly way.

Additionally, there is a challenge in getting people to adopt more active, sustainable forms of travel in their daily lives. 

The benefits from trying to overcome these challenges are important; from improved health and wellbeing through better air quality and getting more active, to reduced emissions leading to less impact on climate change.

The solution

Colchester eCargo Bike Library was formed with £136,000 of funding from the Energy Saving Trust in May 2020, and rollout began in November 2020. The funding went towards purchasing 25 eCargo bikes and five etrailers.

The project delivery has been split into three areas:

  • 10 local ‘champion’ organisations were identified to receive an eCargo bike and/or trailer on a long-term loan for use in their operations. 13 eCargo bikes and etrailers were given to organisations including Colchester Hospital, a local town council and an eCargo bike delivery service amongst others. The delivery service delivers for local businesses as well as charities and other organisations, offering a more environmentally friendly, active and quick way to transport goods. In return for the loan, the organisations provide us with monthly monitoring data and assist with marketing and publicity. 
  • Six eCargo bikes are available on a short term loan basis for organisations in a ‘try before you buy’ model, with two bikes and one trailer being used so far.
  • Six eCargo bikes and three eTrailers are available for Council staff to use such as those in Neighbourhood services, our country park ranger team and others. 

Overall, the eCargo bikes are ideal for making short, quick trips for deliveries and can avoid traffic by using cycle and bus lanes.

The impact

The project has been great for raising the awareness of eCargo bikes. The novelty of the bikes has attracted attention and support from the public and local businesses. Up till end of May 2021, 5070 miles have been travelled on eCargo bikes, most of which would have previously been done using cars or vans. This translates into an emission saving of roughly 1.2 tCO2e. 

The switch from cars/vans to eCargo bikes also helps to promote active travel and healthier living. This is helped, as to use an eCargo bike, level 3 bikeability training has to be completed by the rider, which helps to raise confidence and knowledge of riding a bike on the road.

The local champions have found the bikes really useful, as a user at Colchester Hospital emphasised:

The eCargo bike has proved revolutionary. It reduced the number of journeys using our pool vehicles, is really fun for staff to use and improves their health and wellbeing

Being able to support the eCargo bike delivery service has been good, with that offer being available to many local businesses and organisations who may not be able to afford an eCargo bike but can still offer eco-friendly delivery for their customers.

The success of this scheme has led to another successful bid being received to look to trial the introduction of a pay as you go electric cargo bike club for residents. The Council is also looking to work with the town centre business improvement district (BID) to make two eCargo bikes available for town centre businesses as and when required.

Lessons learned

Getting the insurance sorted for loaning the eCargo bikes out to organisations can take significant time. Additionally, consideration should be given to where the eCargo bikes are to be stored and how they are locked as they require greater space and security than a standard bike. 

Also, ensure you have a local bike repair organisation who are qualified to help with the maintenance of the eCargo bikes.


Emily Harrup

[email protected]