The promises of cyclo-logistics - Companies

The promises of cyclo-logistics – Companies

City delivery is hell. The cargo bike provides an increasingly organized response. By bpost and independent players, such as Urbike, who seek to make it a full-fledged activity.

Getting delivered by cargo bike is no longer a curiosity. For Coolblue, a home appliance and electronics e-commerce service, this is a usual approach in urban areas where the service has a store that serves as its cycle delivery hub: in Brussels, Zaventem, Ghent, Antwerp, Kortrijk and Hasselt. In Brussels, 90% of deliveries of small items, including laptops, arrive at customers on cargo bikes that are clearly identifiable with their blue and orange colours.

Getting delivered by cargo bike is no longer a curiosity. For Coolblue, a home appliance and electronics e-commerce service, this is a usual approach in urban areas where the service has a store that serves as its cycle delivery hub: in Brussels, Zaventem, Ghent, Antwerp, Kortrijk and Hasselt. In Brussels, 90% of deliveries of small items, including laptops, arrive at customers on cargo bikes that are clearly identifiable with their blue and orange colours. There are great reasons to deliver by bike. Traffic makes deliveries difficult by van, especially as local authorities are stepping up measures to limit the accessibility of the city to cars, while opening new cycle paths. Cargo bikes also serve as traveling advertising media for companies wishing to show their desire to “green” their delivery system. “We use it for the last kilometer, as part of a reflection to reduce the impact of emissions from our vehicles, explains Paul Vanwambeke, urban logistics director at bpost. There is of course a way to replace diesel vans with electric vehicles, but that does not solve the problem of mobility in the city. We then developed an ecozone concept that combines electric vans and cargo bikes. It has been tested in Mechelen and is being developed in other cities in the country. ” Currently, bpost has deployed a fleet of 160 cargo bikes in the country. “We will quickly double this figure”, assures Paul Vanwambeke. After a pilot project in Mechelen, the ecozones are arriving in Leuven, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Bruges and Brussels. Bike delivery has always existed. But electric assistance and electronics have created new possibilities, new capabilities that respond very well to the parcel delivery demands of e-commerce. “A lot of our parcel deliveries to the ecozones are done by cargo bike in the ecozones, along with the mail.” There are several models. That of the traditional cargo bike, where the compartment is located at the front and can be used both for transporting a child or goods. It sometimes has three wheels. There are also cargo bikes with the compartment at the back, in particular on “long tail” bikes, that is to say elongated. And to carry the greatest loads, bicycles use braked and motorized trailers: this is the approach used by bpost and the company Urbike. The loads are distributed between the bike and the trailer. There is even a way to transport temperature-controlled goods, provided that the trailer is equipped for this purpose, but it is more complicated to implement. “The main concern is quality: there are a lot of opportunists in the e-bike sector, with poor quality motors, not very rigid frames, limited brakes… We are very selective”, says Giovanni Franzi, the founder of Goodbikes, a store in Ixelles acquired by D’Ieteren Automotive to develop Lucien, its new chain of bicycle stores. He sells a lot of cargo bikes, at prices between 6,000 and 15,000 euros, intended mainly for the transport of people, children in particular. The Lucien chain could, however, open a point of sale dedicated exclusively to cargo bikes for goods. “Using the trailer approach, it is possible to pull up to 200 kg of goods”, assures Renaud Sarrazin, co-founder of the company Urbike which provides deliveries on behalf of Delhaize, the Filigranes bookstore, eFarmz, from CBO (electronic equipment in B to B) or for SD Distribution, in Brussels and Ghent, in particular for L’Oréal products. The Brussels company, founded in 2018, is a cooperative that also offers consultancy to companies or public services wishing to embark on this type of delivery. It also distributes (sale and rental) trailers of the French brand FlexiModal. “Cyclo-logistics can compete with small commercial vehicles for rounds of several dozen urban destinations, for the pharmacy or the grocery store for example”, continues Renaud Sarrazin. The formula is ideal for businesses that are difficult to access and areas where traffic is congested, where unloading operations are complicated. Urbike indicates that it employs 40 people, has delivered 200,000 parcels since 2019, including 115,000 in 2021, uses 40 cargo bikes and several dozen trailers, mainly from a hub located in Anderlecht. In all areas, except for ready meals where competition from Deliveroo and Uber Eats (based on independent couriers) is well established. “We are very attentive to social conditions. We do not participate in social dumping like some delivery people”, affirms Renaud Sarrazin, who specifies that Urbike is a cooperative. “We defend the fact that urban logistics should not lead to precariousness of those who work there. They deserve to be treated with respect.” Cyclo-logistics follows several approaches. There are specialists, such as Urbike, Urbeez or Dioxyde de Gambettes in Brussels, Cargo Velo in Antwerp and Ghent, Rayon9 in Liège, which provide the service by subcontracting to companies or public administrations; and that of integrated players, such as bpost, DHL or Coolblue, which use their staff and their own fleet. The sector is still very young and we have not yet witnessed the emergence of an international start-up, style Deliveroo, attracting enormous capital and promising strong growth. In 2018, an end-of-study work carried out at the Solvay Business School by Gilles Jacquemin underlined that the players remained local and small, “with an emphasis on B to B niches”. The author noted that these players had a certain aversion to risk and that the volumes transported – therefore competitiveness – had to improve in order to interest a greater number of customers. Customers who choose their carriers “on the basis of cost and do not want to pay more for sustainable transport”. In other words, the sector lacks (or lacked? ) maturity. Is this still the case in 2022? Renaud Sarrazin wants to believe that there has been an evolution. “There were indeed a lot of players with little ambition to grow, often bicycle couriers who had gathered, he analyzes. Risk aversion is now less important. Some players are doing jump the glass ceiling. I think Urbike is one of them.” The covid crisis has pushed e-commerce and the environmental impact of deliveries has become an issue. “We estimate that one out of three city deliveries can be done by bike,” says Renaud Sarrazin. IT tools exist to manage rounds, track parcels, notify recipients of the exact time of delivery, etc. “We want to develop a ‘scalable’ business model by developing a new hub in Brussels, additional hardware, with duplicable processes in other cities.” To achieve this, Urbike launched an appeal to the public to raise 1.1 million euros, but it is more of a crowfunding rather than a start-up fundraiser. And according to the plan offered to cooperative savers, growth should take income from 1 million euros in 2021 to 4.4 million in 2026. “The return is capped at 6%”, explains Renaud Sarrazin, who speaks of a “form of social economy” where shareholders have one vote per person, not proportional to the amount invested. At national level, the sector is seeking to organize itself through an association, the Belgian Cycle Logistics Federation, which reflects the desire to defend this new service. There is still a lot to do to develop cycle logistics in Belgium. Integrated actors can contribute to trivializing the use of cargo bikes, and even help to make urban developments more practical for the benefit of all. By developing its ecozones, bpost holds discussions with all the cities approached in order to obtain urban developments compatible with cargo bikes. “For example, we point out to them cycle paths that are too narrow, 42 cm, which are unsuitable for cargo bikes”, explains Paul Vanwambeke.

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