Bicycles and delivery bikes were a natural means of transport and delivering goods in the first half of the 20th century. That was before motorised vehicles took over and almost pushed the bike out as a commercial vehicle. But now these emission-free vehicles are gradually reconquering the streets. Whether Longtail, Deeploader, Delivery Trike or Bike Trailer, and whether powered my electricity or muscle, there is a wide range of delivery bike models, and these bikes are increasingly being rediscovered by business. IKEA in Altona, for instance is currently testing an electrically powered bike trailer designed by the Hamburg-based start-up Nüwiel. But delivery bikes are mainly being tested for the so-called “last mile” – the last link in the delivery chain. The aim is to handle a significant part of inner city and business transport in a quiet and environment-friendly way by using delivery bikes and trailers.
Vans deliver majority of 208,000 parcels
“Over recent years, delivery bikes have evolved into a genuine alternative over the last mile,” according to the study “Last-Mile Logistics Hamburg – Inner-City Delivery Logistics” conducted by the HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration and commissioned by Hamburg’s Ministry of Economics, Transport and Innovation (BWVI). The figures cited in the study provide evidence for the need of alternatives to traditional transport vehicles: More than 208,000 parcels are delivered every (working) day in Hamburg, with around 1,200 delivery vehicles in use, many of them diesel powered. When presenting the study in late January at the Chamber of Commerce Innovation Campus, Frank Horch, Senator for Economics, Transport and Innovation, noted: “We have to become cleaner, quieter and more sustainable in our mobility.”
Initiatives for environment-friendly mobility ideas
In 2016, the Hamburg Logistics Initiative created the SMILE project, short for “Smart Last Mile Logistics”. The project investigated e.g. the practicability and effectiveness of decentralised parcel depots or so-called Micro Hubs from where parcels can be delivered by delivery bike, e-vehicles or even by delivery robots. The European tech start-up Starship is testing a delivery robot Hamburg. SMILE brings together all the relevant players – from CEP service providers (courier, express and parcel services) and start-ups through business stakeholders up to science and research – to develop sustainable approaches for last-mile delivery, to set up project groups and to stimulate pilot projects.
At MOVE Hamburg, the new initiative of the Hamburg Environment and Energy Authority (BUE), the aim is to establish low-emission mobility solutions. “Delivery bikes have a special role here – they are ecologically sustainable, zero-emission, space-saving and can ease the load on inner city roads. They have for a long time now no longer been hipster transport from Amsterdam and Copenhagen,” said BUE spokesman Björn Marzahn. Commercial road-users, such as trades people, pizza services and caretakers are increasingly using delivery bikes, he added.
Environment senator conducting trial rounds
In mid-April, Jens Kerstan, Senator for the Environment, also had an opportunity to test different delivery bike models at the MOVE Hamburg project on the Delivery Bike Day of Practice. Kerstan expressed confidence that delivery bikes would be a smart approach to dealing with increasing delivery traffic in the port city without traffic jams, noise or emissions. “There are now a lot of models on the market that turn bikes into a genuine alternative, especially for short trips and small deliveries. I’m convinced that a lot is going to happen in this area over the years ahead, and a lot can be achieved to protect the climate and air quality in Hamburg,” he said.
The DPD parcel service has had good results with delivery bikes
For almost 10 years, the DPD parcel service in Hamburg has been gaining experience in using delivery bikes, and for the past 18 months, it has also been testing electrically powered bikes with greater carrying capacity. “Our experience with delivery bikes in Hamburg is extremely positive. Delivery bikes are quicker and more efficient in heavy traffic than the traditional vans. Under favourable conditions, a delivery bike can replace a traditional van almost 1:1 in the delivery area,” said Peter Rey, DPD press spokesman. A “favourable delivery area” means a lot of stops close to each other, with just one parcel per stop as a rule. However, large vehicles are also needed as before for commercial customers.
Germany-wide mobility project
Launched in September 2017 across Germany, the mobility project “I am easing the burden on cities” by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) aims to raise awareness of the delivery bike as a smart transport alternative among businesses. SMEs in all sectors, public bodies, tradesmen and the self-employed will be able to trial a delivery bike in everyday operation for three months. Participants can choose from 17 different models. Among the test pilots in Hamburg are the brewery Bunthaus Brauerei, the lighting business Meisterlampe Licht and the Tierarzt-ins-haus vet to your home service. The German Ministry is promoting the three-year project for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of the National Climate Protection Initiative.