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“Terrifying” growth of van trips on British roads, up almost a third in 10 years

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The number of van journeys on British roads increased by nearly a third in a decade, according to a new report by campaign group Cargo Revolution.

Comparing Department for Transport (DfT) data, there were 54.3 billion van miles driven across the country in 2021 compared to 41.6 billion in 2011, an increase of 30.8%. 

These figures are particularly stark when compared to the number of miles driven by cars and taxis, which fell by 8% in the same period, from 241 billion in 2011 to 221 billion in 2021.

The increase in vans was partly driven by the growth of home deliveries. Figures from Statista show that this market grew from £6.9 billion in 2013 to £13.9 billion in 2021 in the UK.

Diesel vans are among the most polluting vehicles on the road, causing spikes in air pollution and congestion.

Rob King, CEO and Co-Founder of delivery firm Zedify, told Zag Daily the number is “terrifying” and follows the growth of online shopping.

“The antidote to the van problem in cities is not an electric van,” said King. “They don’t help congestion and flail behind cargo bikes when it comes to CO2 savings. Studies have found cargo bikes can replace 50% to 90% of urban deliveries.”

Today’s cargo bike convoy

To encourage businesses and local councils to switch from vans to a more sustainable solution, a group of 35 businesses that operate cargo bikes will travel through central London in a convoy today as part of the Cargo Revolution campaign.

The convoy will pass over London Bridge, along the Embankment to Big Ben, then return to London Bridge past Waterloo and Bankside.

“This will be the fourth annual Cargo Bike Cruise and the biggest yet,” said Edie Gill Holder from the Cargo Revolution campaign. 

“We’ve seen all types of new businesses year after year adopting cargo bikes and joining us – from cargo bike deliveries to, increasingly, tradespeople offering full services on cargo bikes. This convoy demonstrates the extent of what is possible.”

The convoy is celebrating 150 businesses that have ditched vans and cars for cargo bikes as part of the Bikes for Business project. Its research estimates that this shift will save London 31.8 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, commented: “I’m delighted to join London’s fourth Cargo Bike Cruise to showcase the Cargo Bike Revolution taking place across the capital. We’re supporting the growth of cargo bikes as a sustainable alternative to vans and lorries through our recently launched Cargo Bike Action Plan – helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality contributing to a safer, greener London for everyone.”

Cargo Bike Charter

Cargo Revolution calculates that carrying out public services by e-cargo bikes could save UK Councils £660 million in fuel and maintenance costs over four years.

To date, six councils have signed up for the ‘Cargo Bike Charter’, which pledges to switch council vans to cargo bikes, where possible. It also includes enabling residents and businesses to use cargo bikes for deliveries and services.

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