The director of the International Cargo Bike Festival, which was celebrated last weekend in the city of Groningen in the far north of the Netherlands, thinks “the tide is definitely turning”. The festival magazine, issued for the eight edition, has another quote from Jos Sluijsmans: “Don’t underestimate the amount of people who want their cities to be safer, cleaner and healthier”. In a better world, city logistics are no longer done by half empty trucks and vans, but by cargo bikes!
After six editions in Nijmegen (from 2012 to 2017) last year’s edition of the International Cargo Bike Festival was held in Berlin. I had visited the festival from 2013 to 2016 (and I wrote three blog posts about it) but I had missed the event in 2017 and 2018. For this year, the city of Groningen had invited the festival to be held there. Groningen is the fifth largest city in the Netherlands and claims a modal share of cycling of 61%. That there is a lot of cycling in Groningen is beyond any doubt. You can debate, however, whether that is because cycling is so attractive or because Groningen has a huge student population. It is no secret (from earlier posts) that I am not a big fan of some of the measures in Groningen. I very much dislike the all directions green system (again confirmed after two days of cycling there) and I really don’t feel I am the most valued road user at many locations in the city, especially not in the suburbs, with regard to priority arrangements and the type of infrastructure. Groningen was certainly ahead of its time in some fields, but other cities in the Netherlands have long caught up and sometimes overtaken Groningen. That said, compared to any city abroad, this city is of course great for cycling. Some things are changing for the better as well. I was really pleased with the fact that most of the buses have been diverted around the city centre since my last visit.
Festival director Jos Sluijsmans accepted Groningen’s invitation gladly, which was a very good decision. This year’s festival was a great edition. The congress on Friday had almost 240 delegates from 35 countries. I was very happy to be invited. The speakers were very interesting and I think the discussions about the trade were valuable. All the larger and smaller players in this world were there. Manufacturers of cargo bikes in all their shapes and sizes and logistic professionals such as Post.NL and DHL found each other again and their representatives were willing to share knowledge to the benefit of the trade as a whole.
That doesn’t mean there is no competition. There is, quite literally. The German magazine Logistra had organised a competition with awards for a number of categories for the first time this year. Winner of the award for best Cargo Bike Trailer was Fleximodal from France for their trailer “BicyLift” that can transport a standard sized European pallet. The award for best Light Cargo Bike (up to 100 kilograms payload, primarily single-track) was won by German manufacturer Radkutsche for their model: “Rapid” and finally, in the category “Heavy Cargo Bikes” (more than 100 kilograms payload, primarily multi-track), the first prize was awarded to Swedish company Velove with their four-wheeled model “Armadillo”.
On Saturday and Sunday the festival became more public. People from far away came to see the latest developments in the world of cargo bikes. Smiling faces galore when people made their test rides. On Sunday the festival was ended with a family day and a cargo bike parade from Groningen’s city centre to the festival area. I had a great weekend (Friday and Saturday) and I met many familiar faces, some expected and some unexpected. The American couple from Utrecht, who recently featured in a Streetfilms video about their playstreet in Utrecht had come to Groningen, just like George Liu from Eindhoven who has his own YouTube channel on cycling research in the Netherlands. I also knew a number of the speakers, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett for instance who shared their story about “The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality” actually in the Netherlands for the first time and the CEO of the Cyclists’ Union (and now member of the Dutch senate) Saskia Kluit, who explained about the recently adopted Bicycle Family in the Union’s Vision for 2040.
I enjoyed myself very much on the festival and I can’t wait until more cities become as ambitious as Groningen is, where they want to have all city logistics carbon-free in 2025. “Cargo bikes are booming” said Jos Sluijsmans. I say: bring them on!
My video about the International Cargo Bike Festival 2019