Multi-modal transportation is the way of the future. Getting more people to step out of their cars and onto bikes or buses is important in cities everywhere, including Berlin. Yet there are times when private transport might feel like the easiest and best solution — such as when you have to haul heavy items or want to make a delivery from a shop. Enter CROW, a bicycle courier collective in Germany’s capital city that focuses on cargo bike transport.
CROW, which got its start in 2017 with just 300 Euros and one cargo bike to its name, was founded by several people, including Jérôme Lühr, who came upon the idea while working as a courier for a food delivery app. After watching the issues that arose out of bicycle courier apps, like the exploitation of underpaid workers, Jérôme and his co-founders created a service that displaced motorized transport. After looking at the already-established market, they decided to stay car-free and focus on cargo bike deliveries.
Jérôme sat down with the TUMI podcast team recently to talk about the lessons they’ve learned since launching the collective as well as their goals for the future. Could cargo bikes be a viable replacement for emissions-heavy freight operators while delivering in inner cities? Perhaps — though Jérôme and the CROW collective go even one step further by using only pedal power; just one of their bike trailers has a battery and e-mobility function.
“We are always talking about decarbonizing ‘our’ economy and ‘our’ society and in this short sidenoted phrase, we are completely forgetting that decarbonization together with electrification means exploitation and most likely on the other end of the world,” says Jérôme.
He notes that while getting rid of cars and fossil fuels is important, many mistakenly believe that an e-battery automatically creates a sustainable means of transport.
“Electrification and the raw materials needed in order to build these batteries come with a very high price in regions where water is scarce, where working conditions are extremely bad, and too many people do not think about this. They say ‘my next car is an e-car and then I’m emission-free,’” says Jérôme.
Which is not to say that we should not strive for electrification of existing fleets but rather that we need to consider further alternatives for transport, including freight. And so far, cargo bikes have proven themselves a fast and efficient means for many in Berlin. To hear more about CROW and the role that cargo bikes can play in delivery services, have a listen to our podcast episode with Jérôme here.