by Jos Sluijsmans, Director of the International Cargo Bike Festival
7th June 2023
Header photo: Cargo Cycling
In early May, the RAI Association published their report “Key figures Car & Mobility and Two-wheelers 2023“. Published annually by BOVAG-RAI Automotive Foundation, this report maps out the Dutch market for passenger and commercial vehicles as well as two-wheelers.
In the two-wheeler sales figure section it is not immediately clear in which category (electric) carrier and cargo bikes fall under – or indeed what the sales figures for these bikes are. In answer to my questions on this, the RAI Association stated that e-cargo bikes fall into the ‘e-bikes’ category and that 8,901 were sold in 2022.
Non-electric cargo bikes, however, fall into the ‘other’ category; the RAI Association does not know how many of those were sold. The figures are based on a representative sample of all bike shops in the Netherlands, regardless of whether or not they belong to an industry organisation. The survey was carried out by market research firm GfK.
Low figures don’t reflect the full story
The number of 8,901 electric cargo bikes sold is very low when compared to sales in Germany, for example. According to ZIV (Zweirad Industrie Verband), 212,800 cargo bikes were sold in Germany in 2022.
This can partially be explained by the fact that Germany still has some catching up to do compared to the Netherlands, in terms of numbers of cargo bikes per capita. Another factor will also be that there are several attractive cargo bikes subsidy schemes on offer in Germany.
Another contributing factor is that in Germany, so-called ‘longtails’ (bikes with an extended rear carrier) and delivery bikes are counted as ‘Lastenrad‘. In the Netherlands, a ‘bakfiets‘ is a bicycle with a box in front or behind. A more neutral term, which includes cargo and cargo bikes as well as longtails and delivery bikes, is ‘transportfiets‘.
There are over 30 manufacturers of cargo and cargo bikes in the Netherlands. Alongside these numerous foreign manufacturers also operate in the Dutch market. Some of these produce exclusively for the private market, others exclusively for business, and many produce for both private and business users.
Elsewhere in Europe, cargo bikes sales figures in 2022 included: 9,585 in Belgium and 33,000 in France. In the United Kingdom, 8,000 to 10,000 e-cargo bikes were sold, with sales to private and to business roughly at 50:50. In the Netherlands that ratio is more like 90:10 – suggesting a much more business-driven transition in the UK.
Cause for optimism
I’ve made extensive enquiries among the various Dutch cargo bike manufacturers. In general they tend to have the strong impression that the RAI Association’s sales figures are far below the actual figures. Based on the data provided, I have come to the conclusion that the number of cargo bikes sold in the Netherlands in 2022 was actually around 40,000 and, if we include longtails and delivery bikes, up to 10,000 more.
Why are we in a position where cargo bike sales figures from one of the top cycling countries in the world are, well… vague? That remains unclear – perhaps because the cargo bike is taken somewhat for granted here. One thing is clear – if we are to convince more people to transition out of other, more polluting modes of transport and into cargo bikes, then communication is key. Clear, transparent figures are a part of that – just look at the Netherlands’ neighbours – and that is what we will be pushing for.
An overview of almost all cargo bike models available in Europe can be found on the Cargo Bike Guide website.
Photo credits: Cargo Cycling and Karin Veenendaal