10 to 15% more delivery vans keep Brussels congested
Traffic congestion in Brussels is not diminishing because of the rise of van traffic, largely due to e-commerce. The number of trucks and buses has faded in Brussels, the number of cars stays stable, but the rise of delivery vans is significant: 10 to 15%.
Where delivery vans represented 6% of total Brussels traffic in 2012, this has now augmented to 10%. Part of it is due to transporters wanting to avoid road toll for trucks and transferring their goods into smaller vans, but the majority of the increase is due to home delivery by e-commerce firms.
The regional plan, Good Move, comments: “Goods transport represents 8% of local traffic, mostly performed by vans, which have a great impact on environment and mobility.”
Longer travel times
Reducing parking spaces inside the city centre has caused a re-equilibration of traffic toward other means of transport (public transport, bikes, walking…) but has also made travel times longer for car users/commuters, approximately 8% between 2009 and 2016, while it had already risen 6% between 2004 and 2009.
That cars are slowest between 8 and 9 a.m. is logical, but also travel times outside of peak hours is increasing, proportionally even more than during the peaks. The travel time is the slowest in the South West of the Belgian capital.
Unfeasible in the long run
The three most important reasons to buy online are lower prices, time saving and the comfort to have goods delivered at home, says a study of Comeos, the federation of trade and distribution.
80% of the time this delivery is not urgent and the Flemish Institute for Logistics (VIL) has calculated that if three quarters of deliveries were done to picking-up points instead of home, the environmental cost would be reduced by 60 to 80%.
Social cost between 26 cents and 1 euro
VIL openly states that home delivery is not done if you take the environmental impact into account. 1 out of 8 delivery persons finds nobody home and 1 out of 3 packages is sent back. This is encouraged because home delivery is still free.
Researchers of the Antwerp University have calculated that the ‘social cost’ (pollution, congestion, accidents) of home delivery varies between 26 euro cent (dense city centres) and 1 euro (rural areas).
The institute therefore recommends a free delivery at certain picking-up points and home delivery only at an additional cost. 60% of Brussels inhabitants live at a 5 minutes walking distance of such a picking-up point, 98% within a 10 minutes distance, says the Brussels administration.
Good Move, the Brussels mobility plan, proposes to provide delivery spaces in the inner city where goods can be delivered, stocked and conditioned for collection or distribution in the neighbourhood.
The plan also pleads for delivery by bike and a far better infrastructure for loading/unloading cargo-bikes. It has 5 million euro to spend on 20 projects “that optimize city distribution”.
Belgian Cycle Logistics Federation
The (very recent) Belgian Cycle Logistics Federation (BCLF) regroups companies that provide delivery by bike. At the moment they are already 6 but they hope that another 15 will join them soon. They believe that at least 25% of all deliveries by car or van can be done by cargo-bike.
“The business is growing slowly”, says Jérôme Robert from BCLF. “Goods are coming into the city in vans and today it’s more expensive to transfer them onto bikes than by leaving them in the vans, because the external costs (pollution, congestion, traffic hindrance, safety dangers for other road users) are not taken into account.”
The infrastructural changes inside the city will also influence this. If the inner city becomes more biker and pedestrian friendly these sorts of transport will become more interesting. “Like in other cases, we would greet subsidies for our start-ups,” says Robert, “but the most important is that the real cost of motorized transport is taken into account, so that we can compete on an equal playground. Then we can take fully advantage of our manoeuvrability and punctuality.”