In February 2021, Bristol City Council announced plans to bring in a Clean Air Zone (often snappily shortened to ‘CAZ’) in October 2021 to improve air quality – bringing it in line with European Union legal standards.
But this isn’t just unique to Bristol: Bath already has a ‘Class C’ CAZ, Birmingham launched a ‘Class D’ CAZ on 1st June, and many other cities are following suit later this year and into 2022. So what actually is a Clean Air Zone, what does it mean for you and your commute or business – and importantly, how can e-bikes help?
Firstly, what’s a Clean Air Zone?
A Clean Air Zone is an area in the UK where targeted action is taken to improve air quality. A CAZ can be non-charging or charging. Whether a vehicle is charged when entering or moving through a CAZ depends on the type of vehicle it is, so if your vehicle exceeds emission standards, you may have to pay a charge.
There are four classes of Clean Air Zone (from A-D), with differing rules on which vehicles are covered. A local authority can decide what level of restrictions to apply.
Why are CAZs important?
Although a rather tricky change to navigate for the many businesses and homes that will be affected by the new Clean Air Zones, the ultimate goal is to improve air quality for everyone. Air pollution has been linked to many major health challenges, such as cancer, asthma, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even dementia – so improving the air quality can only be a good thing long term!
What does a Clean Air Zone mean for your commute or business?
Each vehicle type has a ‘minimum emission standard’, which can be found in the vehicle logbook or from the vehicle manufacturer. To avoid being charged in a Clean Air Zone, the vehicle must meet the minimum standards.
The difficult part for businesses who operate within a CAZ comes when their current vehicles – such as delivery vans and lorries – or those vehicles belonging to suppliers that need to access the premises to deliver goods, supplies or parts, fall outside of the minimum requirements, and therefore incur a charge – ultimately increasing the cost of goods or services. This could especially impact smaller businesses who are based in and deliver around city centres, such as florists, bakers and other artisan makers.
But never fear… the e-bike is here!
Bikes – both traditional mechanical bikes, and their electric counterparts – are naturally exempt from any CAZ restrictions. But if the thought of peddling around the hilly slopes of Bristol or your local town fills you with dread, fear not!
When you have a large amount of deliveries to make in a day, an extra boost to help carry more weight, and haul the load with less effort is always incredibly welcome. This is where e-cargo bikes really come into their own.
Equipped with generous cargo bays, pannier racks and even capable of pulling a trailer, the electric motor on an e-cargo bike powers the rider up any steep slope without them even breaking a sweat, meaning they can go further and deliver more than if they were on a traditional bike. What’s more, during the time you’re out and about, the e-bike creates zero emissions, meaning you can sail around a Clean Air Zone without a care in the world!
Many businesses have now chosen to switch their standard delivery vehicle to a e-cargo bike – often branded in their company colours and logo – benefiting the environment and also promoting their business to the community in an eye-catching way as they are out on their travels!
Towards the end of 2020, we donated one of our Packster40 e-cargo bikes to the awesome The Bike Drop social enterprise in Stroud. The Bike Drop is all about connecting local businesses and local riders to local people. Set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of dedicated young people got together to collect and deliver items locally by bike. The Bike Drop offers training and employment opportunities and provides a sustainable pedal-powered delivery service for the Stroud District.
Harry McKeown, Director at The Bike Drop Stroud explains how the Packster40 has helped: “The incredible Packster40 is a vital lifeline to The Bike Drop and the deliveries we do all over the Stroud District! Each week it is out on the streets delivering pints of beer, countless loaves of bread and freshly baked croissants, locally made soaps, locally grown flowers, home-made meals, local magazines and books – with over 150 deliveries made each week!
“We have maxed out the Packster40’s impressive carrying capacity by adding a trailer with cargo box and a huge cargo box on the front, along with panniers too! We can take a whopping 350 litres of cargo in one haul and our heroic riders can haul that rig all over Stroud, Minchinhampton, Nailsworth and beyond! Even the famous W (steep winding road from Nailsworth to Minchinhampton) does not halt a fully loaded up Packster40!
“Our aim is to support as many local businesses as possible with deliveries while reducing carbon emissions and road congestion, along with providing employment to local people. The incredibly generous gift has allowed The Bike Drop to grow and fulfil these aims. We currently provide eco pedal-powered deliveries to 15 local businesses and have just hired our 7th rider – and I honestly don’t think we would be in this position without the help of the Packster40!”
Help buying an e-cargo bike for your business
We’re often asked if it’s possible to buy an e-bike through your company. We’d always recommend you speak to your accountant, but a lot of our customers buy their cargo bike as a business asset, which means they’re able to claim the VAT back if their business is VAT registered. EDEMO’s Dan explains a little more here:
You can also buy an e-cargo bike through schemes such Cyclescheme or the fantastic Green Commute Initiative. GCI is a Social Enterprise with a vision to get commuters out of cars and onto a bike, with the dual purpose of improving both the individual’s health and wellbeing, as well as reducing the environmental impact of pollution and congestion from cars.
One of the great things about the initiative is that you’re not restricted by the normal £1,000 limit of other cycle to work schemes. That’s right, no limits! This is made possible because GCI is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority – so they are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for help to buy your e-bike.
It’s also worth looking locally to see whether your Council is offering any support. The e-Cargo Bike Grant Fund scheme, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by the Energy Saving Trust, has already meant £2m was allocated in 2020 to 18 local authorities.
Taking Bath as an example, this meant that ten new e-cargo bikes are now operating on the streets of Bath after the council secured a £40,000 grant – four will be loaned out to local businesses free of charge should they wish to trial e-cargo bike deliveries before investing themselves. Whilst the window for new applications for the funding is currently closed, it’s an idea to keep an eye on developments in this area if you might be considering an e-cargo bike for your business in the future.
As another ‘try before you buy’ option, Riese & Müller – who make a number of incredible e-cargo bikes such as the Load60 or Packster – have a ‘rent a bike’ scheme, allowing you to rent a Load75 e-cargo bike for a month to see if you like it, before investing in one for your business. Find out more here – but get in touch with us directly to get the wheels in motion.
Is there anything else I can do?
Along with choosing to cycle, the Clean Air for Bristol campaign suggests a few small and simple ways you can help improve the air quality in your area – no matter where you live:
- Try walking or cycling the kids to school as much as possible, but at least twice a week.
- Limit use of wood burning stoves and don’t burn wood on an open fire.
- Walk, cycle or get the bus whenever you can.
- Recycle your waste. Never burn it.
- Walk to the shops if you only need a few things.
Let’s get e-biking!
If you’d like to know more about some of the brilliant Riese & Müller e-cargo bikes – or their e-bikes in general – please do get in touch. We can talk through your specific requirements with you, and work out which model and spec would be the perfect fit for you and your business. Get in touch with us today and book your test ride!
Just at the start of your e-bike journey? Why not download our Buyer’s Guide covering everything you need to know about electric bikes.