How Lisbon is powering a cargo bike revolution
The European Cyclists' Federation interviews two municipal mobility experts to get a grasp of the emerging cargo bike culture in Lisbon, the Velo-city 2021 host city and CCCB partner city.
From businesses to families, many have found in cargo bikes an all-purpose tool and a chance to contribute to cleaner air, calmer streets and more liveable cities. Cargo bikes are fast, reliable, safe and flexible in their carrying capacity, making them perfect for school drop-offs and a quick stop by the local grocery stores on the way home.
For the past years, the Lisbon municipality has been fostering the uptake of cargo bikes among families and individuals with notable success. And the electrically-assisted cargo bike has deeply changed Lisbon Deputy Mayor Miguel Gaspar’s “personal perspective and experience on bikes and their application in cities.” As he noted on social media, “you get the flexibility of a car (…) and the pleasure of using a bike“.
Cargo bikes have great potential to transform mobility patterns. However, they are only as safe and convenient as the infrastructure, facilities, regulations and schemes in their city.
Last November, the Lisbon city council released its new strategic mobility plan for 2030, MOVE Lisboa, demonstrating a clear vision for sustainable urban mobility. We interviewed Gonçalo Pais and Miguel Cambão, technicians from the mobility planning and studies division, from Lisbon Municipality Mobility Board, to understand how cargo bikes are integrated within the municipal strategy.
“Lisbon doesn’t have a long history with cargo bikes. It’s only during the last year that we experienced a boom in the capital, mainly with longtails, some Long Johns and three-wheeled cargo bikes. Lisbonites still know very little about the existence of cargo bikes as a mobility alternative, or at all”, highlight Pais and Cambão, “The high purchase price, the lack of parking, theft insurance and proper infrastructure are all barriers for the inhabitants of Lisbon to take the plunge.”
The Lisbon municipality is now on a mission to boost this young movement. In the scope of the City Changer Cargo Bike (CCCB) project, they have been implementing various measures to raise awareness and stimulate the use of cargo bikes:
1. Subsidy schemes: In 2020, Lisbon introduced a €3 million bicycle subsidy scheme, reserving half a million euros specifically for cargo bikes. In 2021, a new subsidy scheme will see the light, including maintenance and accessories vouchers as well as cargo bike subsidies for businesses.
2. Cargo bikes loans: The municipality has been offering long-term loans of cargo bikes to families, by far the most successful initiative. In 2020, 25 families tried a cargo bike for at least a month, and five ended up purchasing one after the experiment.
3. Green procurement: The Lisbon municipality leads by example with its own fleet:
- Eight cargo bikes: loaned to families or put at the service of the municipality in projects such as “Comboios de bicicleta” (bike trains to school) or SELIM (fix and exchange of used bikes). During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were also used to deliver goods to the elderly.
- One electric bicycle trailer: used on a local farmers market to raise awareness about micro-logistics.
- One trike: carries people and makes promotion on the street.
- Four longtails: made available for the municipal staff.
4. Infrastructure: The Lisbon municipality is constantly increasing its cycle path network and bicycle parking facilities. The short term on-street parking network tripled in the last 2.5 years, while a long-term bicycle parking network is currently being developed. Designed to welcome cargo bikes, it’s also sheltered, closed and guarded.
5. Communications: Cargo bikers are encouraged to post pictures using the hashtags #CCCBLisboa, #Cyclelogistics and #CML on social media.
Miguel Gaspar borrowed a cargo bike and reported his route logs for a whole week on LinkedIn. He even invited his peers from other municipalities to foster and promote cargo bike projects. The CCCB Lisboa team delivered his message to nine municipalities during a unique event crossing Portugal from north to south with a cargo bike on the mythical N2 road. This event was created by a local store and athlete, with the support of the Lisbon municipality.
6. Events: The city co-organized the first cargo bike festival in Portugal. Lisbon’s most iconic boulevard closed to host the event, which gathered cargo bike vendors and many local enthusiasts who enjoyed discussions, lectures and try-outs.
“New models for micro-logistics are currently being developed and cargo bikes must be part of this new reality”, emphasise Pais and Cambão, the two technicians. The CCCB Lisboa team is working with key logistics players to raise awareness and co-create a prototype hub that could potentially be integrated with Lisbon’s successful bike sharing system, GIRA. “A cargo bike-sharing system is a must have”, add Pais and Cambão.
Cargo bikes make everyday life easier, more efficient and fun! But there is potential for more. Cargo bikes need the right environment to thrive in. There are a lot of ways for municipalities to introduce and support cargo bikes in their city, and that’s the track Lisbon has chosen to ride.
Resources for municipalities and regions to introduce and support cargo bikes:
• ECF’s country guides to unlocking EU funds for cycling investments