Electric cargo bikes are to be trialled in the Highlands to help cut down on the number of deliveries being made by car and van.
Transport partnership Hitrans is seeking a supplier of 12 e-cargo bikes in a £25,000 pilot project that would result in four vehicles apiece being used in Inverness, Oban and Orkney.
The bikes will be used by businesses to deliver goods such as food, mail and prescriptions to test their effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions in both rural and urban locations.
Hitrans says it could be a sustainable and economic alternative at a time when an increasing number of firms are offering delivery services to get goods to customers during the Covid lockdown.
Hitrans’ projects and policy officer Jayne Golding said: “By providing e-cargo bikes to local businesses and community groups, Hitrans hopes to assist with meeting carbon emission reduction targets and analyse different use cases of e-cargo bikes in both rural and urban settings.
“Once bike supplies have been secured, Hitrans will reach out to local businesses, councils and groups to establish different uses for the bikes over a 6-12 month pilot period.
“Many businesses are increasingly keen to minimise their carbon emissions, and equally consumers are keen to support businesses that are local, smaller scale and conduct positive business practices.
“Also, in the current climate of Covid-19, an increasing number of businesses are offering delivery services.
“Our aim is to offer e-cargo bikes to businesses as a sustainable, physically distanced and economically productive alternative, and in so doing support members of the community by improving accessibility and availability of goods.”
E-cargo bikes are easy to charge, with removable batteries that can be plugged into any ordinary wall socket and most bikes will be able to cover at least 20 miles from a single charge.
Last year Nestrans, the transport partnership for Aberdeen and shire, procured six e-cargo bikes for a pilot scheme in the city centre.
Bikes are being used to deliver restaurant take-aways, emergency food parcels during the pandemic and by Aberdeen City Council’s countryside ranger service.
Within the first three months of the pilot, using only three bikes, 575 miles had been ridden that would otherwise have been done by van, while more than 30kg of CO2 was saved.
Feedback showed that, partly due to the impact of the lockdown, businesses who would have not otherwise considered a bike are now using one and can see this becoming a long-term addition to their business.