Germany taking deliveries

Since Corona, the online retail business has been breaking all records – and is soon likely to exceed the traffic capacity of Germany's urban centres as well. New delivery concepts for the last mile are urgently called for and the cargo bike looks like one of the most promising solutions. Image: Johannes Reichel

Since Corona, the online retail business has been breaking all records – and is soon likely to exceed the traffic capacity of Germany's urban centres as well. New delivery concepts for the last mile are urgently called for and the cargo bike looks like one of the most promising solutions. Image: Johannes Reichel

Corona has turned the reality of shopping on its head and, even in the post-shutdown period, online commerce has had a lasting impact on consumer behaviour, according to the analysis of market research experts at IFH Köln GmbH in Germany. As the institute reports, if the momentum of online shopping continues to grow, around 21 per cent of all retail sales could be processed online by 2025, equating to an online market volume of around 161 billion euros. However, even a continuation of the current trend could prove promising, as accordingly, online commerce in Germany is likely to grow by around ten per cent per annum over the next four years and generate some 139 billion euros in revenue by 2025.

"The strong growth rates clearly underline that online shopping is now more than just a part of the retail business, especially in those sectors where the online share has already reached around 50 per cent, and that is unlikely to change when the pandemic is over. The customers of tomorrow will expect a broad range of online and offline touchpoints – but the focus is shifting more and more," says Hansjürgen Heinick, online market expert at IFH Köln.

However, the rapid development is not without consequences for city centres. Delivery vans that double-park and stop on pavements are already a great source of annoyance for many residents. They also hold up the flow of traffic, because the available roads are becoming less and less able to cope with the increasing volume of vehicles – and that is unlikely to change a great deal with the gradual transition to electric mobility, as an electrically powered delivery van causes just as much congestion as its diesel equivalent.

One possible solution for improving last-mile performance is the cargo bike. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV) has also recognised this fact and has been funding urban logistics concepts and feasibility studies as well as the setting up of micro-depots via the "Urban Logistics" funding guideline since July 2019. According to the Ministry, a total of around eleven million euros has been earmarked for this purpose. Municipalities were eligible to apply until the end of August 2021, and most recently eight new projects were added in Cologne, Dresden, Berlin, Lüneburg, Bremen, Bad Honnef, Koblenz and Lahr at a total cost of 1.1 million euros.

Current funding projects for cargo bikes

Cologne: A micro-depot is planned in Cologne-Deutz in close proximity to the Messe-Deutz railway station, the Deutz city centre and the city's government office. From the micro-depot, deliveries to the districts of Deutz, Kalk, Mülheim and Humboldt-Gremberg are to be made emission-free by means of cargo bikes, light electric vehicles or non-fossil fuel-powered commercial vehicles. The project envisages a multi-user depot in which nine companies from various sub-sectors of the freight haulage industry are participating. The BMDV is funding the project to the tune of around 350,000 euros.

Dresden: A multi-user micro-depot is to be built at Dresden-Neustadt station for the last-mile distribution of parcels via cargo bikes or zero-emission, low-noise vehicles. According to the BMDV, the primary aim is to handle deliveries in the courier express parcel (CEP) market on a localised, emission-free basis, which will be pooled at a micro-depot. A number of CEP providers have already signed letters of intent regarding their use of the micro-depot. The BMDV intends to fund the establishing of the micro-depot with some 244,000 euros.

Berlin: The construction of a multi-vendor micro-depot on a specially designated area of Hammarskjöldplatz on Masurenallee (Messe Berlin) is expected to reduce carbon emissions and alleviate traffic congestion. Going forward, delivery routes for Neue Kantstraße, Kantstraße and various side streets will begin from the new micro-depot using cargo bikes and light electric vehicles. The BMDV is funding the setting up of the micro-depot with around 226,000 euros.

Lüneburg: The new micro-depot located at the Sülzwiesen area of Lüneburg is intended to enable both local and national logistics companies to deliver goods to areas throughout the city of Lüneburg – especially the city centre – on an emission-free basis. Any partners who are interested can rent logistics spaces in two containers. A number of local companies and a CEP provider have already signified their interest. The BMDV is funding the project to the tune of around 64,000 euros.

Bremen: A concept is currently being developed for the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen to make urban commercial deliveries sustainable and to pool consignment volumes. The BMDV will fund the project with around 77,000 euros.

Bad Honnef: As part of an urban logistics concept, the focus is particularly on developing suitable measures to reduce carbon emissions and improve the flow of traffic in Bad Honnef. The BMDV is contributing some 70,000 euros to setting up the concept.

Koblenz: An urban logistics concept is being developed that will examine in particular the possibility of establishing a logistics centre close to the city centre. The BMDV will contribute some 48,000 euros to developing the concept.

Lahr: A city logistics concept is to identify measures that will drive positive changes in urban logistics with respect to the types of processes and vehicles used. The BMDV will contribute some 27,000 euros to establishing the concept.

50,000 cargo bikes for Hamburg

The City of Hamburg has recently determined that its municipalities are facing huge challenges in their efforts to restructure last-mile delivery services. An interdisciplinary consortium has prepared a study on the infrastructural requirements of cargo bikes in terms of last-mile logistics and submitted it to the Hamburg Economic Authority.

In 2021, the 70-page study "Infrastructural requirements for cargo bikes, especially for their use in last-mile logistics" was drawn up by a project team consisting of several members under the direction of the transport transition agency "". Alone the "Catalogue of measures and guidelines for a modular cargo bike infrastructure concept" within the study takes up about 20 pages. In particular, the areas of City (Jungfernstieg and adjacent streets), Ottensen (Ottensener Hauptstraße and streets to the north and south) and Harburg (north and south of Marienstraße) were investigated. Among other details, requirements for cargo bike and EV charging zones were calculated for these areas.

The reviewers came to the following conclusion: "If the city's goal of reducing the carbon emissions generated by courier, express and parcel services by 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 2017 and delivering at least 25 per cent of shipments using alternative means of transport such as cargo bikes by that time is to be successfully implemented, a substantial expansion of the cargo bike infrastructure will be required." The study anticipates a sharp rise in the number of cargo bikes in Hamburg by the end of 2025 – around 38,000 to 51,000 of these emission-free bikes (of which around 30 per cent for commercial purposes) are expected.