Boat, bicycle, warehouse: how to decarbonize urban logistics

Responsible for 20% of CO emissions2 and 45% of fine particulate emissions in major French cities, freight transport and its negative externalities are of particular concern to local elected officials.

The growing concern of local authorities for air quality and congestion in cities is pushing cities such as Paris, Lyon or Marseille to face the decarbonization of urban logistics, which has become the subject of local policy while seeing the uberization of the sector.

Our predecessors thought we would grow forever. Today we are completely saturated, a situation exacerbated by the explosion of e-commerce, and the deliveries in old diesel cars that come with it. “, worries Jean-Charles Kohlhaas, vice-president in charge of mobility in the metropolis of Lyon, where 170,000 parcels are delivered every day.

As an initial response to the problem, the metropolitan city of Lyon is betting heavily on the ongoing construction of a 30,000 m² “logistics hotel” on the banks of the Rhône, where it shares project management with the Caisse des dépôts and La Position in of a semi-public company.

This large “public-private” warehouse, which should be delivered in 2023, should be used to centralize the road flows of incoming goods outside the city, to limit truck traffic in the hypercentre and replace those it a fleet of electric vehicles and cargo bikes in the last mile.

It is clear that this will not replace the traditional flows from the hundreds of thousands of square meters of warehouses in eastern Lyon. Instead, we target the supply of VSEs and SMEs and the delivery of parcels to individuals. This logistics hotel can also allow us to develop short food circuits, by playing the role of transporter for Rhone farmers for example. “, continued the chosen one.

Cargo bikes and barges

To decarbonize urban logistics, the capital of Gaul relies heavily on river transport, traditionally confined to construction. Since 2021, following a call for projects from the metropolis of Lyon, the company Urban logistics solutions has delivered barges to shopkeepers and restaurateurs in the city center.

“Cities are now proposing to become last mile logistics providers” – Gilles Paché, Aix-Marseille University

Same thing in Strasbourg, where the company delivers 112 tons of goods every day to the hypercentre with a biogas-powered barge, which is then transported to customers by electrically assisted bicycle, with a capacity of 180 kilos each.

In the same way, the charters for sustainable urban logistics voted in October by the metropolis of Nantes and in June by the city of Paris provide for the development of logistics hotels – Paris already has one north of the capital.– and multimodal river platforms to limit the circulation of thermal trucks.

Cities are now proposing to become last-mile logistics providers, including outsourcing this role to the private sector. “, studies Gilles Paché, professor of management sciences and specialist in ecological issues around logistics at the University of Aix-Marseille.

In municipal and metropolitan councils, elected officials in charge of transport now wear the “urban logistics” cap, something we did not see even five years ago.

Low emission zones are expected

Obviously, these spatial planning policies are related to the progressive implementation of low emission zones in all cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants by 2024.

The ban that will be imposed on the many delivery trucks that circulate in the centers is an economic challenge. We will need to recentralize urban logistics and stop building mega-warehouses outside, which lead to significant CO emissions.2 and much artificialization of land », judge Martine Filleul, PS senator, co-author in May of a parliamentary information report on the subject.

Among the recommendations of this text, the elected official proposes in particular to systematically assign an elected official in charge of the file in the municipal councils of large cities, and to further include logistical issues in the documents in urban planning.

The scarcity of land available in city centers and the rising price of urban logistics spaces complicate public policies

The metropolis of Nantes is precisely preparing its future land plan for urban logistics, to mesh its hypercentre with small storage spaces. The short radius of action of cyclo-logistics will force cities to multiply this type of mini-warehouses.

A complex public policy that must be implemented in the scarcity of land available in city centers and the rising prices of urban logistics spaces, sources of all the greed with the boom in dark blinds and other online consumer convenience delivery services.

We push for the inclusion of storage spaces in all real estate projects, taking care not to strengthen e-commerce giants at the expense of small traders “, continued Thibaut Guiné, elected official of Nantes in charge of urban logistics and the quarter-hour city.

In addition to the ecological problem, there is the question of the working conditions of the delivery people, whose status is often precarious, most of the time self-employed. The equation is complicated for metropolises, which sometimes find it difficult to weigh in the face of e-commerce giants and the lobbying of the main professional federations of carriers.

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