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Trelleborg’s EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK activities inspire one family to shift from car to cargo bicycle

16 December 2019

During this year’s edition of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, the Municipality of Trelleborg (Sweden) launched an innovative project where they offered local residents the opportunity to test an electric cargo bicycle for up to 11 days, in the hope that this would then encourage them to make the shift from car to cargo bicycle.

In this article, we correspond with Christoffer Pettersson-Hernestig from the Sustainable Development Department of the Municipality of Trelleborg, who tells us more about the municipality’s sustainable mobility policies and plans, and what inspired this project. We also speak with Anna, a resident of Trelleborg who, alongside her family, made the decision to switch from car to cargo bicycle as a result of the pilot project. She tells us about what inspired this decision, and how the shift has affected her and her family.

Christoffer, can you tell us about what mobility is like in the Municipality of Trelleborg?
If we look at 2018 statistics, we can see that the most popular mode of transport in our municipality is the car. In fact, 67.5 percent of all trips are made by car, with the remaining 32.5 percent being taken by sustainable modes of transport – cycling is the most popular of these modes at 9.7 percent, followed by walking (8.4 percent), taking the train (8.3 percent), and finally traveling by bus (5 percent).

We have a long history of working on sustainable mobility projects here in Trelleborg and have a number of ambitious policies and plans in place. Of particular note are our municipal Bicycle strategy and Bicycle plan, through which we have set ourselves the aims of becoming the third-best bicycle municipality in the region, and increasing children’s bicycle usage by the end of December 2020.

In order to increase bicycle usage among children in the municipality, we have initiated a programme called “Safe School Trips”. The programme consists of twenty activities and a mixture of initiatives, which aim to make children’s trips to schools safer.

This year, during EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK the Municipality of Trelleborg offered residents the chance to test electric cargo bicycles – tell us more about the project and where the idea came from.
We recently carried out a survey among local residents to gauge their interest in electric cargo bicycles. What we discovered was that the vast majority of respondents were interested in them, but found them too expensive and this deterred them from buying one.

Inspired by a similar service offered in Helsingborg (Sweden), which allows residents to rent electric bicycles for free, we set about creating a pilot project enabling residents of Trelleborg to test out an electric cargo bicycle free of charge for a maximum of 11 days, in the hope that this would motivate them to make the long-term shift from car to cargo bicycle.

First, we travelled to Helsingborg to find out more about how their system works and in particular their e-service booking system, so that we could bring this knowledge back to Trelleborg.

We then worked with our e-service provider to set up a booking system, and worked with the local library, who agreed to take on the responsibility of managing lending the cargo bicycle to users.

We launched the service on 16 September 2019, during EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, with one electric cargo bicycle available to loan. Within the first week of operation, six users had already booked the cargo bicycle, and by the end of week two, all of the available slots for 2019 had been booked.

So far, the project has already motivated one user to make the shift from car to cargo bicycle!

Inspired by the success already seen, the Municipality has planned to expand the service, and hope to soon offer two more cargo bicycles for local residents to borrow.

One of the residents who was motivated to make the change from car to cargo bicycle thanks to the pilot is Anna Loontjens. We also corresponded with her to find out more about what inspired her and her family to make the shift from car to cargo bicycle, and to see what impact it has had on their lives.

Anna, what motivated you and your family to participate in this project?
I had been really interested in buying an electric cargo bicycle for some time, as I hoped it would facilitate getting around with my daughter – my 14-year-old daughter has several disabilities and finds it difficult to walk for long periods.

I thought an electric cargo bicycle would be a good option for us, as it is something between a wheelchair and a car. With a wheelchair you don’t really cover a lot of ground, and going by car you don’t get the fresh air and the outside experience. Plus, the damage to the environment was a really concerning factor for me.

However, as my daughter is also autistic, adapting to change can be difficult for her, and if she doesn’t like something, there is absolutely no way of convincing her of it. This, alongside the cost of buying an electric bicycle, deterred me from buying one out-right.

When my husband, who heard about the project through Facebook, first told me about it, I thought it sounded exciting, as it was the perfect way to test whether or not my daughter would enjoy traveling by electric cargo bicycle before investing in buying one.

After participating in the project, you and your family then decided to switch from car to electric cargo bicycle. What motivated this switch?

Since I work from home, I don’t necessarily have to leave my house every day, so I knew I needed to get outside more to get more fresh air and just be outdoors. When I borrowed the bicycle I realised how easy it was to use. I didn’t have to worry about parking, I didn’t have to worry about buying petrol or diesel, I got fresh air, exercise and I really felt I was doing something positive for the environment every time I travelled by bicycle instead of by car.

Doing groceries was no trouble at all. It took just as long as by going by car, I timed it. But the most important thing was how much my daughter loved it. She saw it as an adventure and was looking forward to travelling by bicycle every morning during the school run. My son also goes by bicycle to school, so it was fun going together and showing him that you don’t need a car – that going by bicycle is a good choice even for grownups. I felt I was setting a good example for him as well.

I bought my own electric cargo bicycle even before the 11 days were over, so I wouldn’t have to wait for it when I returned the borrowed one. I also did this to ensure we had time to make some alterations to it, so that my daughter could more easily get into it.

If you were to encourage others to switch to using an electric cargo bicycle, what would you say?
I often say that everybody can do something for the environment. I can’t do everything, but I can do this. As long as weather allows it – a little bit of rain doesn’t stop us – and it is only me, or me and my daughter and we need to go somewhere in the city, we take the bicycle. It’s more enjoyable, we feel healthier and knowing we’re not polluting gives me a really good feeling.

The cost of the bicycle is paid off within a couple of years if you look at the gas money you’re saving. I ride the bicycle on average about 10km a day, over two or three trips. Sometimes we go for longer rides just to get out and feel the air. I really love the bicycle – it’s easy, it’s fun and it is the best purchase I’ve made in a long time. I really got myself the best gift.

And, Christoffer, If you were to encourage other town's or city's to participate in the campaign next year, what would you say?
If you look at a municipality as an organisation, there are many departments, a lot of which work in some way with mobility or traffic, or both. I would recommend to other cities, towns, municipalities and regions that they invite all key personnel who work in these fields in their organisations to come together during EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and compile all their activities in order to show citizens what’s happening in their city.

We had fun planning our EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign. It was a push for us and made it possible to get a forum and to kick-start a discussion about mobility among different departments.

To learn more about EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and the activities carried out by the towns and cities who participated in the 2019 campaign, click here.