Across Europe’s cities, the demand for delivery services is increasing. But these deliveries affect urban life as they add to traffic congestion, noise and pollution and many cities are now trying out alternative modes of transport that could help. One of these alternatives is the electric cargo bike, as demonstrated in Barcelona through the GrowSmarter project.
What is known as ‘last-mile’ deliveries involves the transport of goods and services from a depot on the outskirts into the city centre for instance by (e)cargobikes. Such deliveries are are expected to grow by more than 16% annually from 2019 to 2027.
In Barcelona, Spain, a project called GrowSmarter was aimed at addressing the spike in small parcel deliveries resulting from an increase in online shopping. The project included a 2 year pilot for the development of a delivery service using electric bikes to businesses and consumers in the old town.
The old town is a densely-populated area with narrow streets, making it hard for delivery vans to access. Due to traffic regulations, it is only allowed to deliver by standard vehicles in the morning and at night. Bikes however aren’t subject to delivery windows. “This combination makes it ideal to do these deliveries with electric bikes,” said Gonzalo Cabezas, project manager at Barcelona City Council.
The team worked with a small e-bike delivery company called Vanapedal which provided the service. The city council set up a distribution centre at the edge of the old town which Vanapedal could use free of charge. Vans from different shipping services would deposit packages for last-mile delivery by electric bike or tricycle. In return, Vanapedal had to provide business data to help gauge the project’s success.
Three tricycles out of the initial nine bikes used were equipped with sensors to take measurements too. “We installed some equipment that included environmental sensors and there was a geolocation sensor to know exactly where the tricycles were,” said Cabezas.
The trial was completed last December and was deemed a success. During the two years, 200,000 packages were delivered, and the rate of successful deliveries was 92.7%. Since the service was provided to a pre-defined area, it allowed the delivery people to get to know their main clients and reschedule deliveries at a convenient time.
“The success rate of deliveries by cargobike was higher than the success rate of standard providers. We are quite happy with this solutions and it works financially from a business perspective,” said Cabezas.
There was also a clear environmental benefit. Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 95.9% and there was a 21.7% reduction in noise. Vanapedal is now continuing with the delivery service and there are also plans to replicate the scheme elsewhere in the city.
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