Cargo bikes catching on in Lewes


Cargo bikesA staggering 60% of journeys of two miles or less in England are made by motor vehicle, contributing massively to congestion, pollution and carbon emissions. Some new projects are showing how cargo bikes could help change that in Lewes, reports Juliet Oxborrow.

One of the big reasons for using a car is to transport stuff. Whether it’s the weekly shop at Tesco’s or a trip to the garden centre to stock up on plants: even though the distances may not be far – using anything but a car seems highly impractical.

But cycle enthusiasts across Lewes are eager to get residents to consider an alternative: cargo bikes. By using a specially designed bike – or simply attaching a trailer to an existing bike – a sizeable load can be transported with zero carbon emissions, pollutants and a whole lot less noise.

Cargo bikes

Imogen Makepeace’s trailer cost less than £100 and has cut her number of car journeys.

Electric pedal power
Of course, a trailer does make pushing a bike more challenging – especially up the hilly streets of Lewes. The answer for some has been an electric bicycle which can be charged at home and then helps take the strain when pedal power isn’t enough.

Town councillor Imogen Makepeace and her partner John have been using an e-bike and trailer since last August. She says: “Using the trailer with our e-bikes has meant not having to use the car for many more journeys. We can put spades and shovels in it to take to the allotment. Helping on the food bank delivery showed that it is able to carry a week’s supermarket shop for a family. The trailer cost less than £100, and with a duplicate attachment on each bike, either of us can use it.

Cargo bikes

Delivering from Tesco to the Food Bank depot at Kings Church on Brooks Road

Food bank transport
The food bank delivery that Imogen refers to is a new initiative that’s being explored by Lewes food bank volunteers, Cycle Lewes and others to see how food donated by supermarkets and their customers can be transported to the local food bank centres by cargo bike.  A trial run in February generated a lot of interest. Sheila O’Sullivan of Cycle Lewes says:

“There was great interest and curiosity in the two trailer bikes and the e-cargo bike that transferred deliveries between Tesco’s and the Lewes food bank depots.  They are increasingly being used in other towns and cities across the UK as zero-carbon transport. Given they can carry a similar load to average car boot, we think their potential in Lewes is immense.”

Lewes e-cargo bike pilot
Many think the potential is so exciting that community energy company Ovesco, with support from Lewes District Council, are in the initial stages of applying funding for an e-cargo bikes pilot for Lewes. It’s hoped there could be some way to link electrically-powered cargo bikes to local renewable energy generation and local energy projects. If the Lewes pilot gets funding, similar plans may be explored for Newhaven, Ovesco says.

Safer, cleaner – and faster?
So could we get to the point where deliveries by bike not car become the norm in Lewes? Not just for householders doing their shopping, but local businesses, tradespeople, and last-mile delivery for online orders?

A pilot scheme in London using e-cargo bikes instead of trucks in the construction industry for last-mile delivery has demonstrated bikes are up to 30-minutes faster, safer and cut carbon. At the other end of the business scale, small bakers Coopers Bakehouse in south-east London reports saving 3,825kg of CO2 per year and £1,300 by switching from white vans to cargo bikes.

Currently a staggering 60% of journeys of two miles or less in England are made by motor vehicle. Rethinking how we travel short distances could have a massive impact on our environment, our health and overall wellbeing. We often assume that towns like ours have to be noisy, frenetic and polluted just because that’s the way modern life is. Maybe pedal power can make us think again.

Percentage of journeys by trip length and main mode, England, 2017
Source: Department for Transport

Cargo bikes


If you’d like to get involved in any of the local initiatives here, comment below or email us and we’ll pass on your details.


  1. Susanne Wolf

    I use a bike trailer and have done quite a lot of research before I bought it. You might be able to buy one for under a hundred pounds but it would be very heavy and not necessarily well made so not last very long.
    For 250 pounds you could buy a good quality aluminium trailer, light weight, strong and easy to store that lasts forever.
    Ask the boys in Cycle Shack.

  2. Aidan McGrath

    Will there be a cargo bike rental scheme in Lewes, assuming yes. How does one register for this brilliant idea?


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