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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article19 September 2023

Delivering Sustainability on Time: Urban Mobility Days explores urban logistics

The increasing demand for goods and services in urban areas can create challenges in terms of emissions, congestion and road safety. With the explosion of e-commerce, last-mile distribution solutions have become really important for cities. The sector is almost unrecognisable from a decade ago. You can now order groceries to your door in 10 minutes flat, while drone technologies are already being trialled across Europe.

New players are continually emerging onto the logistics scene, from instant grocery delivery apps to micro-locker operators. At the same time new partnerships are being forged, creating exciting opportunities for distributing goods across the city and beyond. Over recent years, many innovative and sustainable solutions have been developed, tested, demonstrated and implemented in living labs, pilot projects and cities, but good practice remains scattered and often fails to become widespread.

Urban Mobility Days, this year held in Seville from 4-6 October, will convene a panel of high-level experts to explore this issue in depth.

Ahead of the event, Eltis spoke to one panellist, Hélène De Solère, Logistics Project Manager at CEREMA about the challenges ahead and opportunities going forward. Cerema is the first establishment with shared governance between Government and local authorities. It has offices in all the French regions, mainland and overseas, thanks to its 26 locations and 2,500 agents. Cerema supports the Government and local authorities on ecological transition, adaptation to climate change and territorial cohesion through the cooperative elaboration, deployment and evaluation of public policies. As Logistics Project Director, Hélène De Solère works in Cerema's Territories and Cities technical department, supporting the deployment of national programmes to support local authorities in their logistic policies. As a result, she has much to share and discuss!

CEREMA does much work on the reallocation of urban space for more sustainable mobility. Often, we talk about street space in regard to passenger mobility. How can/should cities be approaching this in regards to logistics?

Indeed, the subject of the mobility of goods in the city has only recently been considered in public policies. However, due to their skills in planning, land use planning, regulations and economic development, cities have many tools to act in favour of a more sustainable urban logistics. Thus, cities can provide a framework that allows private logistics stakeholders to tackle the challenges of reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing congestion and improving the economic attractiveness of cities. To define this framework, it is important for communities to get close to the different stakeholders involved in urban logistics flows. Cerema encourages them to establish a space for dialogue between elected officials, technicians and the different economic sectors of urban logistics: transporters, wholesalers, construction, waste traders, in order to better understand their constraints and needs.

Some solutions for a more sustainable urban logistics fall under the jurisdiction of community, such as the harmonisation of traffic regulations or the deployment of dedicated parking areas. Other solutions can be initiated by communities with the collaboration of local companies, such as experimentation with silent deliveries during off-peak hours, or the provision of available land to create a logistics warehouse, etc. Whichever solutions are implemented, it is important to acknowledge and take into account the needs and constraints of private stakeholders.

CEREMA has also focused on the data and knowledge available to improve logistics planning. What are the main challenges for data collection and deployment for cities today?

Actually, there is little data collected in terms of goods flows in urban areas. Indeed, the data is very diffuse due to the large number of stakeholders and logistics practices. Private companies are reluctant to share their data due to competition and privacy.

Several research works have made it possible to document delivery needs according to the typology of activity and have developed modelling tools to characterise goods flows in the city based on the local economic activities and the urban density. However, these results from models do not always make it possible to adapt to the rapid changes in urban logistics practices.

The first challenge today in terms of data collection is, in my opinion, to define a base of useful indicators for local authorities to follow the evolution of urban logistics on their territory and to implement new solutions. Once these indicators have been defined, it would be advisable to facilitate the collection of the necessary data from private stakeholders and to ensure the confidentiality of the data. One of the essential levers to encourage private stakeholders to provide data is to offer a service / added value to the company. To that end, as part of the CEE InTerLUD+ program, our partner Logistics Low Carbon have developed an application called DeliveryPark. This app allows drivers to indicate whenever they park in a delivery area. In exchange, they get to know the location of the delivery areas, as well as their availability. This provides a service to drivers and allows, via an interface and prior registration of the vehicle and the company, to provide local authorities with a better knowledge of delivery practices within their territory.

One problem facing logistics planning is the lack of harmonisation around access regulations and infrastructure. The Urban Mobility Days seeks to bring together stakeholders from across the industry for comprehensive dialogue. How do you feel cities and EU nation states can work together to create more harmonised and sustainable urban freight flows?

In order to improve the harmonisation of regulations in urban areas, it would be appropriate to suggest and enforce a standard for traffic orders used by communities. Each State should support this standard. Then, it could be mandatory for communities to publish their traffic orders in order to allow the sharing of this data. By having this data and mapping it on a regional scale, discussions on how to standardise these regulations will then be possible. Thus, for example, studies of the flow of goods and other local issues could then make it possible to define circulation patterns for heavy goods vehicles.

Are there any key examples of where this is happening?

In France, in the Ile-de-France (IDF) region, the State and the region are working to recover all traffic regulations via a platform called BAC IDF. The objective of this experiment is to improve the harmonisation of regulations at a regional scale and to be able to provide this consolidated data to GPS route providers so these regulations can be accessible to delivery men and heavy goods truck drivers.

Sustainable last mile delivery is something many in the sector are talking about, and we have seen the expansion of cargo bike use, microlockers etc. How do you think this will develop in the next few years?

Given the expansion of logistics flows (in particular with the growth of e-commerce), the increase in congestion, and the multiplication of regulations such as Low Emission Zones, I think that we will continue to see a growth of cyclologistics and microlockers. However, other solutions will have to be found to complete sustainable urban logistics, for example: modal shift to rivers, off-peak hour deliveries, etc.

It is the European Year of Skills. The logistics sector is also facing a critical labour and skills shortage. What are the main challenges this is posing for the sector, and how do you feel it can - and should - bridge this skills gap?

One of the main problems is that logistics jobs are not very attractive. In addition, recent changes in practices mean that new skills, particularly in the management and maintenance of vehicle fleets, need to be developed. As part of the InTerLUD+ CEE programme, which aims to support local authorities and professional players towards more sustainable urban logistics, Cerema and its partners Logistic Low Carbon and ROZO, offer training on urban logistics. This training is meant for both the public sector (elected officials and technicians) and private companies (drivers, delivery folks, supply chain managers…). It is crucial to provide this kind of training on the specificities of urban logistics to all of the stakeholders.

What are you most looking forward to about Urban Mobility Days?

I look forward to sharing current works and reflections on sustainable mobility in urban areas with counterparts from other countries. I also wish to identify good practices, meet stakeholders from other countries. On the issues of urban logistics, I am particularly interested in the experimentation and solutions carried out in other European cities in order to share them with French communities.

For more information and to register for Urban Mobility Days, see here

To view the programme, see here.


Publication date
19 September 2023
Urban freight/city logistics