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Royal Mail reduces use of bicycles

http://www.docmailpost.co.uk

The Docmail Local Post company uses bicycles to deliver around some UK towns (image ©docmail).

On 19 April 2013 there was an article published about the Somerset council in Bath saving £6000 every year because they are sending out council tax bills using a bicycle-based delivery company.

Update 22/04/13: The Postal Services Director of Bristol based Docmail Local Post, Joe Broadway told me that they use a fleet of hybrid bicycles – the Saracen Urban Escape – to deliver roughly 20,000 items a month across their sites in Bristol and Bath. They used to use electric bicycles but found them to be problematic and costly to maintain. They are expanding slowly through the UK, with the next locations to be served being in Slough and Edinburgh.

Joe told me, “We deliver roughly 20,000 items a month across both of our sites and prevent the production of (by our own estimates) roughly 0.7 grams of C02 per letter we deliver via our network.”

This story reminded me that I had not yet followed-up with my MP, Sir George Young and the CEO of Royal Mail on how their so-called “Modernisation” programme is progressing. You see, modernisation to Royal Mail meant getting rid of many of their bicycle delivery routes, and using vans or trolleys instead.

MP PURSUES CEO OF ROYAL MAIL

Back on 2nd December 2011, I read on Sir George’s constituency blog about Royal Mail and bicycles. His blog stated:

Sir George is pursuing with Royal Mail the policy of withdrawing bicycles for delivery “no one wants employees to work in a dangerous environment, but I wonder whether withdrawing the bicycle and replacing them with vans is efficient and environmentally effective. I am pursuing this with the Chief Executive of Royal Mail.”

I wrote to my MP to ask for further information about his campaign and in turn he asked the CEO of Royal Mail, Moya Greene, former CEO of Canada Post, to reply to me.

UK-WIDE MODERNISATION PROGRAMME

GY & John Gilmore

Sir George Young, MP on left with John Gilmore at Royal Mail’s Andover sorting office in December 2011 (photo ©SGY).

The CEO told me in a letter dated 2nd January 2012 that the change-over from using bicycles was “part of a UK-wide modernisation programme aimed at placing the business on a more efficient and sustainable footing for the future.”

The reason for Royal Mail’s reduction in the use of bicycles was because people were often using email instead of letters; and more significantly because “more packets are sent as a result of the huge growth in home shopping.”

Regarding the delivery of packets, the CEO said that “as our people carry heavier mail bags we have to consider they safety and practicality of using cycles.”

MAJOR INJURY TO STAFF

Moreover, she went on to make this claim: “We have seen an increase in accidents (sic) linked to the use of cycles on busy road networks and in a number of cases these accidents (sic) result in major injury to our staff.”

Aside: I quote directly from her letter, and note that often times “accidents” are rarely that; indeed, police refer to them as “crashes” or “collisions”, just as most major news organisation now do too. See info HERE for example. The Hot Fuzz movie summed it up nicely – see clip HERE.

Needless to say, the CEO’s comments made me think of more questions, and so I wrote back to my MP to ask for further information and clarification.

FURTHER INEFFICIENCY AND 576 INCIDENTS

The CEO told me in her follow-up letter dated 2nd February 2012,

“The capacity of cycles is limited and time is lost doubling back to re-supply points. Using additional vehicles to supplement cycles means that we are potentially covering the same ground twice and so creating further inefficiency.”

ARH20121012-1323-FT4-030471 Postman on a bicycle in Fleet (resized)

A postal worker delivers the mail by bicycle in Fleet, Hampshire.

The CEO quoted Royal Mail statistics: she said in 2010-2011 there were 576 bike related incidents accounting for 2,748 lost working days.

She did not provide comparative information about the number of incidents for non-bicycle delivery methods (walking, or vans for example).

She also said, “Changing delivery methods will reduce accident (sic) rates, incident severity and musculoskeletal related sick absence.”

TRIALED AND REJECTED RANGE OF CYCLES

The Royal Mail CEO claims they did investigate and trial a range of cycles, tricycles and trailers. The company concluded, though, “for a variety of reasons these were found to be unsatisfactory. There were issues with range, hill-climbing, consistency, frame and component failures. There were also concerns of the risk of theft by third parties when ‘paused’ at an address.”

She finished her letter by stating,

“Whilst we are reducing the number of cycles in the fleet we are not removing them altogether and many low volume village/rural routes will use bicycles.”

Indeed, that last bit is true – I have seen some mail being delivered by staff riding bicycles around Fleet, Hampshire (where I work).

Heading out to deliver the post.

Heading out to deliver the post (last delivery from the sorting office in Whitchurch, May 2009).

Alas, in Whitchurch, Hampshire where I live, bicycle delivery is no longer used – indeed, Royal Mail got rid of them when they shut their Sorting and Delivery Office (see my article and video on that HERE – interview with bicycle delivery postal work is at 16min 22sec in the video).

ASKED FOR LATEST STATISTICS

I have now written to my MP, Sir George Young, to follow-up with Royal Mail in order to see whether there has indeed been a cost-savings by using vans and trolleys, and what the crash incident rate (and lost working days) has been.

1 comment to Royal Mail reduces use of bicycles

  • Dave H

    Ironic isn’t it that many UK members of the European Cycle Logistics Federation are getting mail delivery licences and using bikes to take business off the Royal Mail, and TNT, a major competitor is using bikes in London.

    One really does wonder at the direction or management skills of those guiding the Royal Mail and Post Office forwards. They dumped rail for trunk services, including specially built mail trains which could use any electrified line in the UK and be diesel powered by plugging in a locomotive, and within 4 years these trains returned (TNT operates trains), Purpose built Post Offices which had been freehold sites well located in city centres, and incorporated delivery offices (and mail collection) were sold off and now leased premises are often used. Delivery rounds which had been entirely taken out on foot by staff able to reach the city centre location by public transport, now require road transport to get staff in to the city centres from out of town delivery offices, and staff need cars (or bikes) to get to the new sorting office location.

    Rounds are no longer done consistently by one worker, and it shows – I get my neighbours mail regularly despite a notice on the letterbox with delivery instructions.

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