The holiday season is almost here! During the coming weeks, a significant percentage of shopping will fall to e-commerce, meaning more delivery vehicles entering cities.
The increase in delivery vehicles constitutes a threat to Prague’s long-term efforts to reduce emissions and congestion in the centre. With this challenge in mind, the municipality has been working with logistics companies to develop the solution: cargo bikes have replaced some of the fossil-fuelled van transport.
Before entering the centre of Prague, the vehicles transfer their parcels to zero-emissions bicycles in a depot close enough to the city’s heart. As part of this system, eight logistics corporations deliver more than 7,000 packages per month.
A win-win deal
The 2021 European E-commerce Report included an interview with Jan Vetyška, Executive Director of APEK, the Czech Association for Electronic Commerce. “99% of e-commerce delivery cars are still traditional vehicles,” he said.
99% of e-commerce delivery cars are still traditional vehicles.
In Prague, more than 300 packages leave the Florenc depot daily and make their way across the city centre on cargo bikes, alleviating emissions, traffic, and noise and taking another step towards the city’s long-term transport vision.
As the bike depot was the first of its kind in the country, the initiative began with a six-month pilot project, which, based on its success, was subsequently made into a more permanent part of the city’s logistics system.
For logistics companies, the bike depot offers an opportunity to make parcel delivery more sustainable while responding to challenges such as the rapid growth of e-commerce, difficulty finding parking in the city centre, vehicle access restrictions, and car congestion in general.
Furthermore, those corporations that signed up for the project can enjoy the depot’s facilities for a low fee. The firms’ contributions are enough to pay the facility’s operational costs, making the process self-sustainable.
Between November 2020 and July 2021, 26,545 km were covered, and 55,860 packages were delivered by cargo bikes from the depot. “Our experience in Prague so far shows that micro-depots in city centres contribute to streamlining logistics, so those goods always arrive from the shortest possible distance. In other words, the more depots we have, the better the whole system will work,” Prague Deputy Mayor for Transport, Adam Scheinherr, told media.
Goods always arrive from the shortest possible distance.
But the pioneering initiative also supports one more of Prague’s objectives, namely affecting behavioural change among residents to increase acceptance of bicycles as a mode of transport. By showing that bikes have their own rightful place in the vast logistics industry, the city hopes to gain support for improving the cycling infrastructure in the town.
The depot is also intended to serve as a presentation space for new technologies in light electric vehicles (such as electric cargo bikes), emphasising its function as a symbol of new biking culture in the city. Hopefully, this project will spur continuous technological improvements and help the logistics industry fit in with a larger vision of sustainability.
Ondřej Boháč, Director of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development, has said that: “For Prague, the use of electric cargo bikes is a huge step toward a sustainable city. I am delighted to set an example for other European cities in green city delivery. Another area we are focusing on which can move us towards a more sustainable transport system and lessen our impact on the environment is rail freight transport.”
A place for technology
All of the logistics firms that participated in the trial will continue to use the Florenc depot, which will be expanded in the future to include a logistics hub. Citizens will be able to drop off or pick up their packages on foot, which will reduce the number of kilometres that their orders will travel by vehicle before reaching their final destination.
The pilot’s success has generated additional commitments and improvements in the city. The Prague City Council opened a second depot at Anděl on 8 December, right on time for the Christmas period. As the number of packages being delivered from the depot increases, innovative developments are being integrated. New bikes and new technologies will improve the efficiency of getting packages from the depot to their intended recipients.
In November 2021, Prague’s Depot.Bike Cycle Depot was shortlisted at the Eurocities 2021 Awards in Leipzig for the ‘zero pollution’ category.