As locksmiths in Hackney, problem solving is our main train of thought and as a London locksmith one of our biggest problems has always been transport and the time taken to get to a customer’s destination.
You know Islington should be a 35 minute drive from Bow as it’s only 4.5 miles away but in reality it can take up to or even over an hour some days, and I hate being late for anything.
Back In 2008 I sold my branded Toyota HI-ACE van and bought a BMW F800GS motorbike and proceeded to kit it out with all the panniers and storage which could allow me to continue locksmithing but faster, being more efficient and clinching those emergency jobs as I could offer a more rapid response to my customers. The plan worked – I asked the customer for photos of the job so I knew exactly what I was going to do. I could carry enough basic stock to get by and was still able to dash back to the workshop or Aldridges or even Duffells if required in a decent time, questionably legal speed wise of course, to grab any specials required. I then turned all the staff over to motorcycles and scooters. They all seemed happy to be able to move around the city faster and we got more jobs done – it all seemed so easy. The nightmare of having to go collect keys from agents, attend the property then return the keys now took 20 minutes rather than an hour. Even if we forgot something we could go back to base and back to site quicker than the engineer in the van.
2020 was a defining year for us. When lockdown hit the local councils in London were given funds by the government to install street calming measures. Many of these measures simply meant the councils dumped huge planters in the middle of roads and junctions. Furthermore, outside all schools they introduced no go – clean air zones for cars and bikes between certain hours. All of this didn’t have much impact during the first few months of lockdown as the roads were so quiet anyway but it soon became apparent that the traffic simply shifted to other roads. Grid locks ensued as people got stuck on roads they once used but now couldn’t.
The upside of this, for Us, was that the government also gave funds to local councils to help businesses move to greener modes of transport. On enquiry I found that I could obtain a very healthy £2000 grant from the Zero Emissions Network (ZEN) a partnership from Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils. The only remit being I had to take a petrol or diesel vehicle off the road, detail the average mileage / petrol saving and not sell or profit from the sale of granted transport purchased for a minimum of 2 years.
The offer sounded fair so – who doesn’t love equipment shopping – I set out looking for the best machinery to suit our trade.
The Dutch have long been the leaders in bicycles and more importantly cargo bikes. And when electric cargo bikes were born the Dutch still led the way. I visited www.fullycharged.com at London Bridge and road tested a bike made by a Dutch company called Urban Arrow. They make many different sizes and types of e-cargo bikes from family oriented ones to transport your kids to school to massive almost car size ones for last mile deliveries. But the one that caught my eye was the “Shorty”. A modern version of a typical ice cream style bicycle. A big box upfront that you sit and peddle behind. I took it for a test drive around the South Bank and knew immediately this was the one.
I submitted my paperwork to ZEN with details of the e-cargo bike provided by the very helpful guys at Fully Charged. By the time I added all the extras to the bike like locking lid to the load area, Kevlar belt drive rather than a chain. Updated engine, built in tracker for added security, the list goes on and on. The final price came out just shy of £6000 inc VAT. Shocking I know but minus the £2000 grant and minus the VAT it suddenly became a much more viable option. 21 days later we found we had been approved for the grant. I called Fully Charged and put the order in immediately.
Roll on 3.5 months. I sold the motorbike and picked up the Urban Arrow. I can honestly say it is one the best business decisions I’ve made. Using a bicycle in London is no slower than a motorbike. I get to use the canals, bike lanes, Royal parks and roads. I park directly outside the customers premises and there is nothing the traffic wardens can do about it. We even take the Woolwich ferry occasionally.
I do all the locksmith work at Lords Cricket ground and whizz there on the canal network taking only 40 minutes then arrive at Lords, sign in and whizz around the grounds to get the work done. I’d never be allowed to use a motorbike or van around the entire grounds.
It can carry upwards of 200 kg between the front and rear load area or more than enough for my tool kit, break in bag and welding equipment. I can carry up to 2 full size mechs no problem.
I have my phone mounted on the bike and a decent jawbone conduction headset with a boom so I can hear traffic but still take and receive calls safely.
I’ve cycled more than 48 miles on my best day and average 20-30 miles a day, five days a week. I cycle in all weather all year round. Even in snow albeit very slowly. Planning prevents piss-poor performance, after all. Shorts and t-shirts for summer, gore tex shell clothing for autumn and Spring and full a range of thermals for winter.
For security on the bike, it comes with an Abus cafe lock and locking top box. I added a tracker built into the electric motor which alerts me of the bike moves. I have a Hiplok D1000 – the most angle grinder resistant D lock on the market. Another Abus motion alarm and a battery cage to stop the battery being stolen. The batteries are £550 each and are rather tempting to thieves so it’s very important to secure them well.
After nearly 3 years of ownership I’m certainly fitter, I’m faster, carry more equipment and the customers absolutely love how green we are. Last month we bought our second e-cargo bike so now we have a fleet.
I know our very own MLA chairman, Steve Underwood of Abbey Gate Locksmith, has also recently put an order in for an electric bike so they can make deliveries in and around Reading city centre.
I know it’s not for everyone but it certainly works for us. 🔒🚴💚🌿🔑
Lloyd Morgan – QML
Qualified Master Locksmith
MLA Approved Company