In mid-November last year, the first electric cargo cycle depot opened in Prague, which became self-sustaining in just a few months, and the project has already saved tens of thousands of kilometres of fuelled transportation. The idea has caught the attention of cities across the continent, and the system is working so successfully that it will soon expand into another district of the Czech capital.
The system is extremely simple: in the morning the lorries arrive, unload the cargo into the station’s containers, then the couriers arrive on electric bicycles, grab their respective parcels and ride off to the addresses in town. As a result, there are fewer vans driving around the city and consequently less pollution.
The idea for Depot.Bike, located in the Florenc district, was created during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the official website. Authorities closed the city's major transport hubs, but the number of orders was growing, necessitating a space-saving, fast-track procedure that would also be sustainable; bicycles do not pollute the environment, and even battery-powered bicycles generate much lower emissions over their lifetime than vans – Expats.cz writes.
DHL Express, Dachser, PPL, DPD, GLS, MessengerCZ and Rohlík.cz all joined the initiative. (The latter is the largest online grocery chain in the Czech Republic. They are present in several countries in the region, including Hungary, under the name Kifli.hu in Hungary), and an additional four logistic companies will join next year. The project launched by the City Hall has met the expected results in just four months and has been self-sustaining since then.
“In September, we will launch the operation of another bike depot, which we will place by Anděl. Our experience in Prague so far shows that micro-depots in city centres contribute to streamlining logistics so that goods always arrive from the shortest possible distance.” Said Prague Deputy Mayor Adam responsible for transport.
So far, over fifty thousand parcels have been handled at the depot, and couriers have cycled more than 23,000 kilometres, saving a lot of van journeys. Whether this will be enough to win the first prize will be revealed in October – but regardless of whether Depot.Bike wins the first prize or not, the cycling couriers will stay in Prague.
The station to be built in the Anděl district will be twice the size of the Florenc depot, which was built on the site of a former private car park with thirty parking spaces. The depot is more than just a collection station: they also have heated rooms, a kitchen, a shower and a charging station, making life easier for couriers commuting back and forth.
Of course, the idea of bike depots is not new at all: this so-called ‘last mile’ delivery system is a 20th-century invention, but it has only really come to the fore in the last few decades as a response to climate change.
The added value of the idea implemented in Prague is that, on the one hand, there are city leaders behind it and, on the other hand, they are including service providers who are commercially interested in running less vans: according to a report of the European Commission, 1 percent of the EU’s total GDP, amounting to around € 100 billion, lost from out of pocket due to traffic obstructions.
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