Join Bicycle NSW for comprehensive insurance and advocacy.Join Us Today

Over the past decade, demand for package deliveries to the home has steadily risen. Along with this has been the increasing challenge of the “last mile”, where bundles of freight destined for a certain region are split off into individual packages to be delivered to the property.

Male courier delivering parcels on bicycle

The complexity of the challenge is reflected in its cost: the last mile can account for more than half of the total delivery fee. Increased price of deliveries is only part of the issue: other impacts include worsened congestion due to more delivery vehicles. These impacts are felt more strongly in urban areas.

Recently, the concept of “micromobility” has arisen in conversation as a possible solution to these issues. Micromobility is typified by the use of lightweight vehicles that are either electric or powered by people over traditional motor vehicles like cars, vans, and trucks. Most commonly, these are electric bicycles. These lightweight vehicles are much better at travelling through dense urban centres and are naturally suited to carrying smaller loads.

Experiments with micromobility

Corporations are already making active steps towards a micromobility focused future. An example of this is PostNL, a multi-national delivery corporation who has recently made a large shift towards micromobility and achieved a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 35,000 kg per year. 

Governments around the world are also investigating the ways in which they can support this transition by designing infrastructure to support micromobility.

Bici Carga, a 6-month pilot project, backed by funding from the World Bank and operated by the Bogotá City Government in Columbia, recently looked into the effect of providing “micro-logistics hubs”, where deliveries can be consolidated closer to the end customer when using electric cargo bikes instead of vans. The project showed that the use of these bikes in combination with the micro-logistics hubs could save the city up to 4.2 tons of emissions per year, as well as reduce the average driver/rider’s working day by 2 hours.

The use of micro-logistics hubs in London has also been investigated by professional services firm Accenture, who found that their use could reduce traffic volumes by 13% and reduce harmful vehicle-related air emissions by 17% by 2025.

Beyond creating new infrastructure, there are clear paths to repurposing existing infrastructure. In 2019, New York City launched a trial to replace last mile delivery vans with cargo bikes in a major route in Manhattan. As part of this trial, more than 350 bikes were allowed to park in loading areas previously reserved for vans and trucks. Over the trial period, the changes resulted in a 109% increase in deliveries by cargo bikes and 20 cargo bike miles per day were shown to replace 20 van or box truck miles.

Incidentally, the use of bikes resulted in a per bike CO2 saving of approximately 7 tons per year, which is equivalent to 15,436 passenger car miles travelled. The trial was such a success that the City is working on developing this into a permanent cargo bike programme. A similar effect was seen in Toronto where Uber recorded a 40% increase in deliveries by bike between 2019 and 2020 following improvements to the cycling network.

Micromobility in NSW

Dealing with congestion is an especially pressing issue in NSW urban centres, a problem exemplified by the traffic congestion issues in Sydney. This view is echoed by Bicycle NSW CEO, Peter McLean: “To stay ahead of the curve, the NSW government should investigate how changes to regulation and infrastructure may allow the community to leverage all the benefits that micromobility provides.” 

It is clear this issue requires especially decisive and forward-thinking action from governments. However, progress on this front in NSW has been lagging, reflected in the recent struggle to properly regulate the use of e-scooters, now a common sight in inner cities despite being illegal to ride off private property in NSW.  Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra have all gone ahead with regulatory changes and trialling e-scooter sharing schemes and just recently the NSW government has changed their position and is developing the scope of a trial to be undertaken later this year. Bicycle NSW notes the National Transport Commission’s recommendation that e-scooters be made legal to ride on footpaths (with restrictions). 

Bicycle NSW has a long history of advocating for improvement across all kinds of bicycle regulation and infrastructure. If you’d like to support these advocacy efforts become a Bicycle NSW Member today.

Share This News