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Bicycle Deliveries Start to Take over in London

In London, delivery bikes, or pedal powered couriers as they are also known, are now starting to replace traditional delivery vans. Not only are the bikes introducing a cargo delivery solution that is cleaner and safer than the current alternative, but it has also been proven to be twice as fast [1].

With worsening congestion and air quality due to increased traffic, and a sharp increase of delivery vehicles (up 20% from 2010) on the streets of the U.K. capital, TfL (Transport for London) has started to take some measures to counter these effects. For example, a special Ultra Low Emissions Zone was created in the city centre that acts as a congestion charge for all but the cleanest vehicles (where light/heavy vehicles have to pay £12.50/£100 a day for access) [2], and a Healthy Streets Fund for Business was launched to fund new mobility solutions. The new delivery scheme using cargo bikes was started this spring with a £170,000 pot from that fund and has thus far been very successful, much due to the avoidance of emissions fees and a way to get through gridlocked traffic.

Current estimates show that the service massively reduces the environmental impact of intra-city deliveries compared to diesel-powered vans, but also when compared to electric vans. In this comparison, delivering goods with bicycles marks a 97.5% reduction in particulate matter emissions and a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions when manufacturing is taken into account.


Personal comments

It is great to see green alternatives working well and outcompeting traditional and unsustainable options. The success of this scheme also points toward the importance of city policies, and what possibilities they may bring. However, if this solution is going to replace delivery vans long-term, a scaling strategy needs to be put in place with special steps to address capacity issues (as a van can probably deliver way more goods at a time compared to a bike, even if the bike is twice as fast) and the necessity for new street infrastructure (for example bike paths) that will most probably need to expand alongside the introduction of new vehicles and services.


Written by Darijan Jelica, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2019-05-15. Bikes are starting to replace delivery vans in London.

2. Ultra Low Emission Zone. Transport for London.