Wouldn’t it be amazing if our roads were quieter, pollution reduced, and we didn’t have to get the car out to get a pint of milk?
That, in essence, is the thinking behind the 20-minute neighbourhood. The goal is for our towns and cities to connect us with what we need. That means creating an environment where people can easily meet most of their everyday needs with a short, convenient, and enjoyable 20-minute return walk, cycle, or trip on public transport.
Towns would be re-designed so people can ‘live locally’ with access to leisure facilities, schools, grocery stores, doctors and (for some) their work within a 20-minute walk or cycle.
The problem is, over the years, our towns and cities have tended to sprawl out thanks (in part) to new technologies that have enabled faster modes of transport to the detriment of safe walking and cycling links.
Businesses thrive on pedal power
It’s not just the public that benefits from cycling; businesses can too.
Switching to cargo bikes (or e-cargo bikes and e-bikes) makes financial and environmental sense.
Businesses enjoy a significantly lower upfront cost compared to cars and vans. They have cheaper running costs (electricity or muscle power), plus insurance, maintenance and repair costs are also much cheaper.
They take up less road space, and so ease congestion. They increase efficiency because delivery riders can take shorter, faster routes by using cycle and bus lanes, wheeling through pedestrianised areas, or moving through standstill traffic.
Employees love them because physical activity contributes to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Other benefits include:
Cargo bikes are smaller and nippier than vans; therefore, they take up less road space and ease congestion. They increase efficiency because delivery riders can take shorter, faster routes by using cycle and bus lanes, wheeling through pedestrianised areas, or moving through standstill traffic, so your deliveries don’t get stuck in stationary traffic.
Parking is not an issue with cargo bikes. Because they are small, riders can cycle right up to their drop-off destination without causing mayhem on the roads, saving you time and removing uncertainty and frustration.
There’s no easier way to boost your green credentials than to switch to cargo bikes. They provide a sustainable form of transport, are climate-friendly, and are a great way to build your brand and appeal.
Imagine your goods and services being accessible all the time. With your fleet of cargo bikes out and about, it’s easier for people to stop your riders and ask about your products and services. There’s no way that brand engagement would happen if they were in a van.
But what about other businesses?
Well, they too can thrive in a 20-minute neighbourhood by becoming a cycle-friendly employer.
The main benefits they will reap include improved employee health and wellbeing, increased productivity, reduced traffic impact on the local community, employee retention and motivation, and a reduction in the need for car parking spaces.
Employers can demonstrate corporate social responsibility by promoting active travel whilst improving staff wellbeing.
Why is the 20-minute neighbourhood concept gaining traction now?
That’s easy to answer – climate change and the pandemic.
Regardless of your views on climate change, there’s no getting away from the fact that our weather patterns are changing. As we all know, emissions are one factor driving this change.
The other reason is the pandemic. No one saw it coming, but it arrived with a bang. Suddenly, we were all confined to our homes or the local area, transforming how we lived, highlighting the importance of liveability in our neighbourhoods. Gone were car journeys to the supermarkets. Local businesses became the lifeblood of communities. It unleashed the great bicycle boom of 2020.
When the stay-at-home order was announced, cycling gave essential workers a safer and cleaner way to get around than public transport. For others, it was a healthy alternative to gyms. In fact, the UK Government figures show that in 2020 there was a 46% increase in pedal cycle traffic compared to 2019.
A great example of this in practice is Waltham Forest. The scheme to create a low-traffic neighbourhood was initially not well received. However, since it began, new shops have opened, more people are walking and cycling, car ownership has dropped by a fifth, and new housing developments have been built without any allocated parking. It’s been an enormous success.
Cycling and the 20-minute neighbourhood
Cycling is a fabulous alternative to walking. It’s quicker, and you can go further in 20 minutes, opening up a wider range of possibilities.
- It boosts the economy – cyclists are more likely to shop local than car drivers, benefiting local retailers
- Reduces your carbon footprint – bikes are food powered, so the emissions are far lower than cars (even considering the production of the bike and the food you eat)
- Cleaner air – cycling helps reduce harmful emissions, creating a healthier environment
- Mental health – it’s a great way to de-stress and clear your mind
- Save money – switching to two wheels negates the need for MOTs, expensive services, and eye-watering fuel bills
- No more traffic jams – the 20-minute neighbourhood removes congestion, traffic jams and unsafe roads
- Great for your health - as little as 20 miles a week on a bike can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by half
Adopting cycling as your preferred mode of transport will help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Being low-impact, it's ideal for most people to get started.
Let’s face it; bikes are sustainable; unlike cars, they don’t emit carbon. Plus, they reduce the congestion that currently blights our towns and cities. But we’ll start seeing a real impact when more and more businesses adopt cargo bikes and harness pedal power in their day-to-day activities.