I drove to London this week to collect two new additions to our fleet of cargobikes. We haven’t taken our own pictures yet, but you can see that these Bella Bikes have a huge cargo box and possibly the most unusual steering mechanism seen on a cargobike.
The rear wheel steering creates an incredibly manoeuverable bike which can literally turn on the spot. And the fact that these are trikes will mean that there is no risk of them toppling over – something that can happen very easily when we are carrying 60kg on two wheels. Although the bikes are a little heavier than our Bullitts, it is the difficulty of pulling the longer Bullitts around in a tight space when stationery that is most difficult, and puts off some of those who would be interested in riding for us. I hope these Bellas will increase the diversity of those able to ride for us.
In any case, as I was recently discussing with a fellow courier and bike enthusiast, I think of bikes as I would think of shoes. Each bike has a purpose. I wouldn’t dream of running a marathon in hiking boots, or going to work in running shoes. Every bike has a purpose and cargobikes are no exception. These Bella Bikes are perfect to make retail deliveries to Leeds pedestrian precinct. With the planned extension to pedestrianisation hours we expect to be picking up more of these so expect to see us around in the next few months.
On 14th July 2012, Last Mile Leeds attended the inaugural meeting of the European Cyclelogistics Federation. Their website describes the federation thus:
The European Cycle Logistics Federation is a professional body which represents and supports the needs of cycle logistics companies across Europe.
The Federation is a membership organisation for:
- Established cycle logistics businesses (eg. delivery companies, couriers, pedicab operators, tradespeople, organisations which use cycles as part of their business operations, etc)
- Start-up businesses considering using cycles as part of their business operations
- Manufacturers and suppliers of cycle logistics equipment.
- Associates who have an interest in promoting the further use of cycles
The Federation is supported by CYCLElogistics, an EU funded project which promotes the delivery of freight by cycles and trikes.
But what should be the role of such an organisation in the UK? Here are few of my thoughts;
- UK specific. Firstly, there is a need to establish within the organisation, a space for UK cyclelogistics companies. Although it is great to be part of a Europe wide initiative, and we can certainly learn from our colleagues overseas, at least some of the issues we face in overcoming national attitudes to cycle use are specific to our own context. If we are only concerned with ‘big-picture’ policy then we will risk being irrelevant to small cargo bike operations. We could consider UK, and perhaps even regional meetings, though these need not be face to face and could take the form of conference calls etc.
- Sharing Experience. As is to be expected in a young industry, we are all learning. We could each gain much by learning from the experiences of others. At this stage in our industry’s growth, I feel that most of us recognise that anything that promotes the use of cycle logistics anywhere in the country is generally ‘good for business’.
- Partnership broking. Each of us have worked hard to develop business relationships and partnerships with our customers, but few of us have the reach to extend these partnerships nationwide. Either we can sit on them until we have grown our respective businesses into national carriers, or we can share them.
- Combined Representation. In the same way that Kissinger once asked, “If I want to call Europe, who do I call?”, if a multinational courier or nationwide retailer want to begin to include cyclelogistics in their delivery chain then where would they start? Either they have to hold multiple discussions with multiple different operators, potentially agreeing numerous different sets of terms and conditions or we can present them with a united front, and consistent standards of service.
- Marketing and Promotion. Fairly obvious this, but to what extent might we consider raising national awareness relevant to individual operations…and would we pay for it? There is however free marketing to be had by mutually promoting each others businesses and achievements through our own websites and social media.
- Quality standards. Each of us knows the strength of our own operation, but would probably not want to risk our reputation on that of others. Yet we can all gain from increased credibility of the industry as a whole. Rather than instigate a complicated system of regulation we might benefit from a simple system of either self (or perhaps peer) assessment. This might include such things as security, redundancy (can we operate if a rider falls ill ), longetivity, financial stability, whether we have the relevant insurances etc. Even having a set of external standards which members could assess themselves against could be useful in declaring our respective competancies to deliver what we say we can to potential partners.
- Managing competition. The elephant in the room here is competition. Even though, on the whole, we are not competing directly as we are operating in different cities, might we be in the future? How many of us would like to expand our operations, and what would happen when two members overlap? Overall competition is good, and it would be a mark of a maturing industry when most towns or cities had at least two cyclelogistics operations. I don’t know exactly what the role of the Federation would be, but I would hope it would help avoid turf wars and price wars.
I have posted a link to this on the Cyclelogistics forum, and although I will leave comments open below, I suspect discussion there will be more fruitful.
What do Bristol, Göteborg, Ljubljana, Ravenna and Riga all have in common?
They were the five European cities involved in the START (Short Term Actions to Reorganize Transport of goods) project which ran from 2006-2009.
From their site:
Acknowledging that the current system of goods distribution is rich in emissions and not necessarily energy efficient, the five cities of START has implemented a mixture of complementary long-term planning actions, for the reduction of the need of transport, with short term initiatives, such as access restrictions, consolidation centres and incentives. The approach of the project is based on the close collaboration between city governments, transport companies and local businesses formalised in local freight networks, which have been established in each START city.
The idea is simple. By having delivery hubs on the outskirts of these cities, which can receive goods on behalf of city centre retailers and businesses, and can then consolidate these into fewer vehicles, there is a saving of delivery costs, as well as reduction in traffic and CO2 emissions. The scheme was promoted through additional delivery restrictions and incentives for those using the scheme.
Would such a scheme be effective in Leeds? And what sort of role could cycle couriers have? There are clearly numerous empty buildings within a short distance of the city which could act as a delivery hub. The majority of retailers are within a pedestrianized precinct which is restricted to vehicles between 10.30am and 4.30pm, and although many of these are large enough to have staff able to receive deliveries outside normal business hours, for the small independant retailer, such restrictions can be problematic.
Cargo bikes can offer an effective solution to this problem. Should Leeds ever consider such an initiative, Last Mile Leeds are already perfectly positioned to take advantage.
Here is an interesting review of the Bullitt having been used for the heavy lifting of commercial cycle courier work, for 3 years. It does suggest that Last Mile Leeds has bought the right bike for the job, though may need to address the design of our cargo boxes sooner rather than later. Look out for us in Leeds, delivering documents and small packets on behalf of a large international courier, as part of a pilot project beginning next week.
Bullitt Cargo bikes, 3 years on « Buffalo Bill’s Bicycle Blog.