Urban deliveries: the rise of bicycle couriers

November 18, 2019
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren
November 18, 2019
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren

An increasing proportion of the world population lives in cities and this way of living is only going to continue. The United Nations predicts that the global degree of urbanization will rise from the current 55 percent to 68 percent in 2050. For many countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, the degree of urbanization will even rise to 97 percent or more. Many of these urban residents buy their products online, which means that in 6 years’ time at least 500 million e-commerce deliveries will be made in cities every day. Vans drive back and forth to the homes of consumers, while trucks supply the distribution centres. These transport movements, which in many cases are accompanied by high CO2 emissions, cause complex challenges in and for cities. In order to continue to meet the growing demand for online products without burdening cities and the environment, these last mile deliveries must become more sustainable and efficient. In this blog we discuss the game changer in the field of sustainable inner-city ecommerce: the bicycle courier.



The development of cargo bikes and the ever-increasing flow of packages mean that retailers and bicycle couriers are increasingly finding each other

From car to bicycle
In the beginning of the 20th century the car began to dominate cities. Where previously the bicycle was used by postmen, messengers and couriers, it was slowly but surely replaced by its faster counterpart. As more and more cars moved through the city for recreational purposes as well as for supplying stores and delivering mail and packages, congestion arose, traffic in cities slowed down and cities became less accessible. In addition, the negative effects of emissions from cars, delivery vans and trucks on the environment and the health of society became clear. These elements have made the bicycle courier regain popularity, particularly in the field of ecommerce.

This popularity was primarily expressed in the online food and grocery sector, driven by the gig economy. Companies such as Uber Eats, Foodora and Deliveroo have fully integrated a business model that has completely revolutionized the use of bicycle couriers in ecommerce. In this model, the independent bicycle courier works from job to job, whereby he is paid per order instead of per hour.

The development of cargo bikes – a version of the conventional bicycle that allows the transport of a more significant load –  and the ever-increasing flow of packages mean that retailers and bicycle couriers are increasingly finding each other. Traditional retailers are increasingly discovering that existing stores have a favourable location. In this way an existing store can easily play an additional role as a distribution centre. Online players cleverly hook in on this by opening brick-and-mortar stores and developing collection points in existing stores of other retailers. This means that the bicycle courier is nowadays frequently used for the delivery of all kinds of products ordered online, from Amazon parcels to a quick meal.

Fast, flexible and sustainable
The fact that more and more retailers in cities collaborate with bicycle couriers can be explained by a number of factors:

It is obvious that cycle logistics has a bright future ahead, offering value to business economics and the environment.



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Blog by: Nienke van Meekeren
Sources used: ABN AMRO, United Nations, Cleantech Regio, Ride Promoter
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