This blog was written by Sina Zhen, Sustainable Mobility Officer, ICLEI World Secretariat.
With the rise of e-commerce due to technological advancement in on-demand deliveries and the effects of COVID-19, some of the major challenges that cities face includes the increase in heavy goods vehicle congestion, roadway safety, and air pollution. To tackle these issues, Barcelona is supporting eco-friendly methods of transport for the last mile solution. The city has contributed a 600,000-euro grant for exploring a range of new concepts to reduce urban delivery impacts. These initiatives include creating micro-distribution hubs for last-mile delivery and the funding of cargo bikes.
Since January 2020, Barcelona has introduced what is known as the city’s Ring Road Low Emissions Zone (LEZ). The 95-square-kilometer zone covers the entire metropolitan area and its outer suburbs and restricts the most polluting vehicles from entering. The LEZ operates Monday to Friday, from 7 AM- 8 PM, and is enforced through police and an automatic control system utilizing more than 150 cameras. The LEZ is part of a range of actions to reduce the city’s air pollutant emissions by 30 percent in the next 15 years and promote alternative modes of transport. The LEZ has a direct impact on the operations of urban deliveries, in particular with the last mile situation.
Vanapedal, a cycle logistics company founded in 2010 in Barcelona, is one of the key players in assisting the city in achieving its sustainability goals. Prior to COVID-19, the company was delivering 1,500 packages a day with 16 cargobikes. The concept is simple: vans from logistic operators leave packages in a micro-distribution center right at the edge of the city center where Vanapedal takes over the last-mile fulfillment within the city core. This effort reduces pollution and congestion by reducing the number of heavy vehicles traveling into the city center as well as promoting cycling. During the city’s two-year pilot with Vanapedal, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 95.9 percent and there was a 21.7 percent reduction in noise. The city’s partnership with the operator in implementing a prime location for the micro-distribution center is crucial. This concept’s success is also enabled by technology advancement, as operators uses geolocation tools and smartphone terminals for real-time communication, optimization of routes, and package tracking.
According to the European Union-funded CYCLE Logistics, 50 percent of all motorized trips in European cities related to transport of goods could be shifted to bikes or cargo bikes. Last-mile delivery is one of the most expensive and highest polluting elements of the supply chain and shifting to cargo bikes can help solve these issues, while also potentially promoting the worker’s health via cycling versus the stress of driving a big van through congested streets. Using cargo bikes for delivery has gained momentum in many European cities like Barcelona that have high density, narrow streets, restriction of trucks and vans in certain areas, and congestion which make parking difficult, while bikes can navigate the city with more flexibility as well as contribute to the achievement of climate goals.
Last-mile delivery has become a challenge to many cities and cities can learn from Barcelona on what is working. In summary here are a few key measures from Barcelona’s pilot that cities can replicate:
Special thanks to
Ruth Lamas: Mobility Engineer, Metropolitan logistics coordination, Mariona Conill: Mobility Engineer, EIT Urban Mobility projects coordination and Sílvia Casorrán: Environmental Scientist, Metropolitan bike office coordination for providing information for this blog post.
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