Towards ‘Slippers distance’ deliveries

23 September 2020

“Due to the corona situation, people buy significantly more online,” says Dr. Thomas Nobel, managing director tbnlr (to-be-now-logistics-research) in Bremen, “an increase of delivery of goods that we actually only know from the pre-Christmas period.”

The trend was already picking up before the corona crisis, but, as in many other cases, covid-19 has stepped on the accelerator, creating more deliveries, additional traffic and increased emissions. But cities are ready to respond.

Already an exemplary city – as the German city with the highest share of cycling and lowest level of NO2-concentration and committed to transforming its inner city in a car-free area by 2030 – Bremen is taking the lead on testing solutions to make on-demand delivery more sustainable. Together with Groningen and Mechelen, Bremen will be coordinating pilot solutions for the movement of goods in cities through a newly launched EU project – ‘Urban Logistics as an on-Demand Service’ short ‘ULaaDS’.

Making deliveries efficient and more sustainable

Have you ever thought at the consequences of a failed home delivery? When a person isn’t at home, the package will continue its journey adding to CO2 emissions, which might increase even further if the person needs to use their car to collect it at a drop off point, it will also delay the delivery, and add costs to the service provider.

Bremen, Groningen and Mechelen will test ways to optimise the delivery system and by reducing unsuccessful deliveries, also reducing emissions. The idea is that parcels going towards the same city area will be grouped together. These will be collected in containers by delivery zone already at the warehouse. Then containers going in neighbouring areas will be delivered at city hubs by small vans and e-vans, then collected by cargo bikes for the final stretch.

ULaaDS delivery system: sorting and distribution scheme
Urban Logistics as an on-Demand Service delivery system: sorting and distribution scheme

“Today, goods are moved not only in trucks but also often in private cars,” says Bonnie Fenton, state chairwoman of the German bicycle club in Bremen. “That is why we want to expand the Fietje cargo bike sharing. Then you can take the cargo bike to bulk shopping, to the construction or beverage market – that saves car journeys and relieves our roads.”

24/7 options to collect

To reduce unsuccessful deliveries, the project partners will also experiment with alternatives to the drop-off and collection step. Mechelen, for example, has already tested during the summer of 2020 the introduction of 19 pick-up points for a total of 50 new Parcel Lockers spread across the city centre.

The delivery to the new lockers is done by cargo bikes for the city centre area, and by electric vehicles in the overall city zone. The Parcel Lockers, installed in open spaces, are accessible 24/7, easily movable, and operate without electricity and anchoring. Thanks to a collaboration with the Belgian post provider, BPost, the city placed the Lockers at ‘slippers distance’, that’s to say within a maximum 400 meters radius from housing, public transport hubs, shopping streets and other strategic locations.

Project partners will add Parcel Lockers such as those in Mechelen in strategic transport points in their respective cities, with the possibility to use them also to send parcels and not only to collect deliveries.

Another solution that will be tested within the project is the ‘cargo hitching’. As modes of transport such as taxis, public transport and semi-automated shuttles are already driving around our cities, why not take the chance and have them drop off some parcels instead of adding more wheels and emissions to our cityscapes?

Spreading the word

Urban Logistics as an on-Demand Service partners in Bremen
Urban Logistics as an on-Demand Service partners in Bremen

The project partners will test more solutions and the process and results will be closely followed by the cities of Alba Iulia, Bergen, Edinburgh and Rome, which will commit, by the end of the project, to implement some. The project will also collect good practices, tools and guidelines hoping to inspire many more cities to the road towards more sustainable on-demand delivery systems.

The project will have an impact on how people and local businesses organise their future shopping and delivery contributing to the goal stated in the European Commission’s White Paper on Transport: to achieve largely CO2-free logistics in city centres by 2030.



Urban Logistics as an on-Demand Service (ULaaDS) is a new research and demonstration project in the European research program Horizon 2020. It brings together 24 partners including city authorities, research institutions, industry and logistics stakeholders, associations, and networks to support the deployment of novel, feasible, shared and zero-emission solutions across a three-year period. The project started on 1 September 2020 and benefits from €3.15 million funding by the EU. Read more about ULaaDS here and here


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer