Retailers to ditch delivery trucks for bicycles

Major retailers are investing in manual powered and electric bikes as an alternate greener delivery method.

Cycling couriers are most common in food delivery services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats in Australia, but major global retailers including H&M are trialling delivery for products via cyclists too.

Gary Cookson, Managing Director of cargocycles, specialises in cargo bikes and said there is serious use for bikes in delivery, however the take up in Australia is slow.

Food delivery is the main area where growth is happening, food is perfect for bike delivery because it is light and distances are short” Gary said.

It works best in very congested areas or if restrictions are placed on vehicle entry.”

The Melbourne-based retailer said he has seen an expansion in the ‘e-bike’ due to advances in technology and heavier bikes are able to carry cargo and embark on longer commutes compared to pedal powered bikes.

European capitals, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen are reported to have almost a third of movement via bikes.

Due to the high volume of movement, H&M teamed up with to pick up parcels at H&M’s warehouse with biogas vehicles and then deliver the parcels by bicycles from local hubs in Amsterdam. 

The global fashion retailer is trialling the method, where cyclists offer next-day delivery for online purchases across 30 cities.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) business school Professor Gary Mortimer said significant urbanisation in Australia is challenging traditional modes of cargo delivery.

“E-bikes are a great opportunity for Australian retailers, especially due to congestion and parking challenges in major capital cities,” Gary said.

“For consumers who lives in urbansied areas and have purchased goods from a store 2km away, they can have those deliveries by bike very efficiently.”

Gary said it’s a cost effective delivery method, but there is a challenge as services who deliver via smartphone application will also have additional costs from the percentage online operators take from the business.

“Delivery services, especially food retailers, will enable consumers to pay for that delivery and it’s been proven that they’re willing to do that,” Gary said. 

Woolworths and major supermarket giants are offering fast delivery of goods to encourage consumers to utlise the service.

“If you order your groceries in a metropolitan area like Melbourne and Sydney, your groceries can be delivered in under 80 minutes from some stores,” Gary said.

Last February, Australia Post implemented a fleet of new e-bikes and three-wheeled electric delivery vehicles.

The postal service has always used bikes as a delivery method, however they’ve invested in new electric delivery vehicles (eDVs) which have the capacity  for large parcels and deliveries from online retailers that traditional post person bikes can’t cater for.

Colin Hindle Australia Post’s Last Mile Implementation national head told ABC that they operate 1,100 electric push bikes across the country and are moving away from motorbikes to electric delivery vehicles.

Gary said Australian retailers are exploring different measures due to the growth of online retailing and advancements in global markets.

The NAB Online Retail Sales Index data indicates that in the 12 months to December last year, Australians spent $30.53 billion on online retail.

Alan Oster NAB Chief Economist said metropolitan areas have recorded the most growth and the three most populous states represent just over 80% of all online sales.

“Growth is also happening amongst consumers, they want a convenient way to shop that means advanced picking methods and investment in distribution centres,” Gary said.

“We’re following the international market but retail delivery via bikes is something we haven’t seen here in Australia.”

He acknowledges that road transport will always drive delivery services in Australia due to the nation’s geographical location and extensive land, however for inner city areas it could be a “new efficient and greener method for faster delivery”.

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