Op-Ed

Towards a renewed approach of urban logistics?

What does a boom in home deliveries mean for the city of tomorrow? When thinking of urban mobility, pedestrians, metro, bicycles and cars are the first to come to mind. However, another form of mobility exists that receives less attention: the logistics of the goods required to feed and supply the inhabitants of cities. It is time to take it into consideration.

With the development of e-commerce, everyone separately gets its delivery instead of supplying a single shop. As a result, 500 million parcels were delivered last year in France, a figure with a double-digit growth rate. To the great displeasure of some urban dwellers, for whom it is sometimes a nightmare, this growth has partly taken the form of the white delivery van, which often encroaches on sidewalks and bike lanes. Those same vans are causing an increase in traffic accidents, due to the frantic pace of delivery drivers, subjected to ever tighter delivery deadlines by demanding urban consumers.

How can we ensure that our cities are not overwhelmed by urban logistics? A myriad of innovations are emerging, attempting to address this challenge. Last year, Amazon introduced its delivery drone. Yet while this solution might work in low-density areas, it is hard to imagine the sky being crisscrossed by flying machines constantly in cities like Bordeaux or Grenoble. In the United States and China, ground-based delivery robots are already at work. River freight is on the rise (though slowly), and cargo bicycles are increasingly being deployed.

However, none of these innovations will solve the problems of urban logistics. For the central issue is the storage of goods: huge warehouses are currently being set up further and further away from the cities. Getting a grip on logistics and making it more sustainable means better organized storage, closer to the consumer. But the miracle formula for reconciling land prices in urban centers and the storage of goods has yet to be found… Let’s hope that our cities of tomorrow will be able to invent it.

 

→ This op-ed is an excerpt from recent chronicles by Cécile Maisonneuve, broadcast on France Info. Find all the podcasts (in French) by following this link.

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La Fabrique de la Cité

La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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