The Royal Mail has confirmed long-standing rumours that the traditional postal worker’s bike is to be phased out, citing the dangers faced by cyclists on Britain’s roads as a prime motivation behind the decision, and has rejected calls to use cargo tricyles instead of vans to deliver letters and parcels.
Yesterday, the Labour peer Lord Berkeley, secretary of the All-Parliamentary Cycling Group and a critic of the move to dispense with postal delivery bikes, revealed to the House of Lords that Adam Crozier, chief executive of Royal Mail had written to explain the reasons behind the decision.
According to Mr Crozier’s letter, which was written as part of a reply to a Parliamentary Question raised by Lord Berkeley earlier this year, the Royal Mail’s fleet of 24,000 bicycles “pose the wider safety risk associated with busy street networks, where the rider is exposed to greater risk than other vehicle users."
Mr Crozier claimed that through replacing the bikes with vans or, in areas that motor vehicles find it difficult to access, electric trolleys, the Royal Mail expected “to see a reduction in the number of delivery accidents as a result of our rollout of this new delivery technology, as a substantial proportion of accidents are currently linked to the use of bicycles on busy road networks."
He added that the Royal Mail’s bicycles, which are made by Stratford-upon-Avon firm Pashley, can carry 32kg of mail spread between front and rear panniers, and that the vans and trolleys would be able to carry an increased load, and rejected a suggestion from Lord Berkeley that cargo tricycles could provide a suitable, and more environmentally-friendly, alternative.
“Royal Mail has previously assessed the viability of manual freight tricycles and concluded that they would be inappropriate for the type and range of deliveries our people make,” Mr Crozier explained.
“The use of freight tricycles is problematic unless terrain is extremely flat,” he continued, “which is why they are commonly used by Dutch and Danish postal operators.”
“Of course, the UK consists of far more variable terrain over which our postmen and women must deliver, making the use of manual freight tricycles impractical,” added Mr Crozier. “They also have the potential to present an increased risk to the user,” he concluded, “as they are slow-moving, difficult to manoeuvre, and the rider is positioned closer to ground level than other road users.”
Lord Berkeley, a keen cyclist, asked Lord Hunt, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, whether he agreed that the Royal Mail’s decision was “a bit of a slap in the eye for the Government's cycling policy, which encourages cycling rather than the driving of vans,” to which Lord Hunt replied that while active travel and cycling should be encouraged, it needed to be borne in mind that the decision was aimed principally at improving the efficiency of the Post Office.
Although Mr Crozier claims that the phasing out of bicycles and replacing them with vans would result in greater safety for postal workers out on their rounds, one peer, Lord Colwyn, voiced concerns that replacing them with vans might create a greater hazard to other road users, telling the House of Lords that the last two occasions he had been knocked off his bike, Royal Mail vans had been at fault.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.