Back in March, almost overnight, the world changed. Businesses closed, the roads emptied, and tinned tomatoes and bread flour became rarer than gold dust. Many people who were self-isolating or shielding suddenly needed life’s essentials delivered to their door. Fleets of supermarket delivery trucks and Amazon vans shattered the peace of lockdown, while many local shops and markets remained shuttered. So a plan was hatched for a local alternative that would let small Calderdale businesses keep going, even if their customers had to stay away. The tool for this job was to be the humble bicycle – but adapted to carry essential shopping and brought into the 21st century with electric assist.
Christened ‘Cargodale’, the project was devised by Todmorden-based transport consultant Beate Kubitz. Cargo bikes are still rare in the UK, and finding them at the drop of a pandemic wasn’t easy. Manchester Bike Hire were able to supply one for deliveries in Todmorden, and the Town Hall in Hebden offered to host a second bike. Step forward the Hebden Bridge Visitor Centre and their fleet of Pedego electric hire bikes. Or more specifically Pete, a Pedego Stretch capable of carrying a hefty load.
For Cargodale, Pete was adapted by Pedego in Leeds with the addition of some large crates. And then deliveries began. An early run was a real test: up to Blackshaw Head via Mytholm Steeps, a brutal 1 in 4 climb that normally requires first gear in a car. How would Pete cope with several kilograms of precious bread flour aboard? With his powerful e-assist and his massive battery capacity, the answer was “just fine”!
Over the next few weeks more deliveries were made and more notorious hills were vanquished. Public interest in the project has also been keen, with many eyes opened to the potential of e-bikes to help with transport and logistics around the valley. Cargodale has now expanded to cover Halifax and Sowerby Bridge, and has added bigger capacity bikes using funding from the Department for Transport drawn down by the Calderdale Council Transport Team.
In Beate’s words: “It was great that we had an electric cargo bike in Calderdale that we could repurpose and put to use responding to the crisis back in March. I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to make all the deliveries needed by cargo bike - but it turns out that actually they cope much better than big vans on our narrow lanes and unsurfaced roads.
“I hope that we’ll be doing more deliveries to support local shops delivering to their customers and keeping our high streets vibrant. During lockdown our air quality improved enormously. More cargo bikes will help get us to a point where we experience that again - whilst ensuring the economy works and people get the things they need.”
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