An East London council could be the first in the UK to offer residents free delivery of their Christmas shopping by cargo bike or electric van – if they’ve bought from local shops.
Waltham Forest Council’s Christmas Courier scheme, paid for by the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund, is designed to reduce the number of polluting Christmas delivery vehicles on the streets, and if it’s a success, the council hopes to keep the scheme long-term, and make it a profitable business.
So far Christmas Courier, with its fleet of cargo bikes and one hybrid Renault Kangoo van, has made almost 300 parcels in 200 deliveries from around 19 local businesses in just three days, including 400kg of vegetables from a local vegetable box scheme yesterday alone.
Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment said: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve air quality and reduce the number of short journeys made by motor vehicles, and the Christmas Courier scheme is a great example of this.
“So whether you’re buying food and drink or gifts for loved ones, why not take advantage of the scheme and get it delivered free of charge? We will use the results of the trial in Walthamstow to develop our plans for a borough-wide zero emission courier service in 2017.”
A council spokesperson told road.cc: “We want it to be the best delivery service in this part of East London – that just happens to be human and electric-powered.
“We are also offering people who are laden down with shopping the opportunity to drop their stuff off at the market, and we will take it home for them.”
A number of local delis, wine shops, florists and a coffee roaster are signed up to the scheme.
— WalthamForestCouncil (@wfcouncil) December 15, 2016
Christmas Couriers have also delivered shovels, gloves and grit to ‘Snow Angels’ – local people who help clear ice from parts of the borough the council can no longer afford to keep ice free.
Waltham Forest was one of three London councils given around £30m under former mayor Boris Johnson’s term for a ‘Mini Holland’ programme to make walking and cycling easier in the borough. As part of this some residential streets were closed to rat-running traffic. Bicycles – and cargo bikes – can still get through, however, making them the perfect local delivery vehicle.
Perky Blenders, a local coffee roaster, told road.cc Christmas Courier has delivered to 75 of its customers since the service began.
"The courier team has been prompt at pick ups and deliveries, we have also received lots of positive feedback from our customers due to fast delivery times and attentive service.
"The use of Waltham Forest cargo bikes means that even our largest orders can be delivered efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner.
"If the scheme were to continue we would definitely support it."
The Council was awarded a £400,000 grant from the Mayor's Air Quality Fund to operate the scheme for two years, after which the service will need to pay for itself.
The drop-off point for shoppers to leave their goods is outside the market by Walthamstow Library. The cargo bike pilots are also Cycle Confident instructors, and will offer free repairs on bikes while they wait. The borough also offers free cargo bike hire for residents.
The Christmas Courier scheme will run until 23 December.