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"Using electric vans and cargobikes to make "last mile" deliveries" by Nino Allenza, founder of B-spokes: Edinburgh meeting of Tuesday 6 October 2015

Nino Allenza, Managing Director of b-spokes.d

Nino Allenza, Managing Director of b-spokes.

© John Yellowlees 2015

Nino Allenza is Managing Director of b-spokes, a small business in Edinburgh that specialises in moving goods from distribution depots to final recipients. Their typical load is small parcels, i.e. neither letters nor bigger items but those of a weight around 2kg which is average for goods bought on-line.

Cargo-bikes are nothing new - he showed a photograph of one dating from 1934 - and with increasing urbanisation final deliveries over the "last mile" have become increasingly difficult and bikes represent a solution that is both more practical and more cost-effective. Their use can also respond to stricter controls on emissions and to charges on commercial vehicles for entering city centres.

The final leg is up to 28% of journey cost and often the most problematic part. DHL in the Netherlands replaced 10% of their vehicle fleet with 33 cargo-bikes and reported annual savings of 430k euros with carbon dioxide emissions down 1.52M metric tonnes and a 25% improvement in productivity.

Design is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with the Europallet offering savings in even the 60-80 mile range, and the FedEx unit is particularly neat since it has an electric assist on the back two wheels and can clip onto a bike.

Founded in 2001, Edinburgh-based b-spokes is a leading provider of ad bike services and works with major companies such as Virgin, Fat Face and Stagecoach, as well as advertising agencies, to help promote their brands in an "impactful and eco-friendly" way. The company also hires out bikes and riders for weddings, corporate events, city tours and festivals.

Indeed b-spokes is the largest rickshaw trading company in the UK, serving a mix of local and blue-chip customers and large international couriers. Its contract with DHL started out helping with Christmas deliveries in Edinburgh City Centre and soon achieved a better delivery rate as a result of the bikes' greater flexibility. Again carbon dioxide emissions were reduced, and savings were of the order of £10 per day for each hundred parcels delivered. Unfortunately for the bikes, volumes eventually exceeded their capacity, prompting a return to vans and now it is hoped that in about two years it may be possible to replace the present vehicles with electric vans.

Barcelona has adopted microdistribution centres, and Nino does not see why these should not work well using empty shop units in Edinburgh. Online shopping may be key to future development - other than food, all the top categories of online purchase including clothing, music, books and health items lend themselves to use of cargo-bikes - and in the belief that they offer an opportunity to keep other city centres sustainable Nino is now offering b-spokes as a franchise.

For further information on b-spokes, visit their website at

Report and photograph by John Yellowlees.


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