This blog was written by Sina Zhen, Sustainable Mobility Officer, ICLEI World Secretariat
Cities around the world are facing environmental and social issues in urban freight. Cargo bikes have become an increasingly popular and practical last-mile delivery solution in many cities worldwide. Micro consolidation hubs enable the shift of goods from high polluting trucks to cargo bikes and replace vans in last-mile delivery. However, many city design guidelines and infrastructure do not consider the needs of goods movement by cargo bikes. This was the topic of focus for June’s peer city exchange for the EcoLogistics Community. Specific case studies from successful city implementation were presented on best cycle logistic practices. Christian Kaden, Consultant from LogisticNetwork Consultants (LNC) GmbH and Mariona Conill, Mobility engineer at Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB), presented on Berlin’s Kooperative Nutzung von Mikrodepots, known as KoMoDo pilot and Barcelona’s efforts in cycle logistics, respectively.
Cooperative use of micro-hub by top logistics providers in Berlin
The Berlin KoMoDo project aimed to test sustainable solutions for delivery traffic in urban areas and to develop transferable solutions for other municipalities. The project was funded by the Federal Environment Ministry and tested the micro-hub concept in hopes to alleviate space shortage by utilizing cargo bikes for the last-mile delivery. The pilot project collaborated with five of the largest parcel operators: DHL, DPD, GLS, Hermes, and UPS. These logistics operators worked under a centralized area for the collection and distribution of packages. Each logistics operator had access to a 20-foot container within the facility in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. Packages were delivered to the hub by conventional trucks, then distributed by bikes from each company’s own cargo bikes in the busy district.
LNC LogisticNetwork Consultants GmbH was responsible for the project coordination, and Christian shared major insights on the successes, challenges, and learnings from the year-long pilot project. The pilot was considered a success as 160,000 parcels have been delivered by 11 cargo bikes within a three-kilometer radius around the micro-hub location in Prenzlauer Berg. Noise levels and emissions were reduced, and there were less double-parked vans in the streets. In total, more than 38,000 kilometers were covered, and carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 11 tonnes compared to conventional delivery vehicles.
Pioneering cycle logistics and beyond in Barcelona
Funded by EIT Urban Mobility and Horizon Europe, the HALLO project creates shared urban consolidation and distribution centers (UCDC) in AMB and demonstrates complementary actions such as testing of fossil-fuel-free deliveries and the addition of a micro-terminal in Stockholm. Barcelona is testing shared UCDC in the form of micro hubs in conjunction with the use of more sustainable vehicles such as cargo bikes at six pilot sites.
Challenges and lessons learned
Identifying a suitable location for the micro-hub is a challenge. Numerous criteria need to be met for the location given high real-estate demands as well as facility needs. More modulization and standardization are needed across all operators and cities. There needs to be more facilitation from municipalities in order to balance interests. In Barcelona, cycle logistics are part of the solution for decarbonizing cities, but it is a difficult business model. Hence, AMB is also taking consideration into how to include small businesses and smaller operators in the picture. Both Christian and Mariana pointed out that collaboration between sectors is one of the keys to success.
Based on examples from Berlin and Barcelona, it appears that micro-hubs work best in densely populated areas where space is scarce and enough demand from customers in the area. Last-mile delivery with cargo bikes from micro-hubs is a transferable solution for local authorities to help make delivery traffic more environmentally friendly as well as to alleviate space in busy city centers.
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