16.05.2019 //
Teemu Palkki
Janne Savon

Cargo bikes boost the agility of package distribution

A container measuring one cubic metre, adorned with the logos of DB Schenker and the Port of Helsinki, caused a stir on the capital’s streets last summer. Although the container looks large when it is on the back of a bike, the electrically-assisted bicycle is a more agile method of bringing small packages to customers than conventional vans.

“When people order goods online, the flow of goods becomes thinner and packages are small enough in size to be transported by cargo bike,” summarises Schenker’s Petri Sinkko, who was responsible for the operations last year.

Bikes are one way of taking care of the last mile, with delivery either directly to the customer or to a pick-up point such as an R-kioski shop. To reach the last mile, packages need to be brought close to distribution routes. Packages are loaded onto Schenker’s bike at the South Harbour. The route arrangements are handled in Vantaa, from where shipments are also delivered to the port.

“The port works well because the routes leading to car ferries need to be designed so that large vehicles can use them,” says Juha Tuominen, who is responsible for managing traffic this year.

This summer, cargo bikes will also be introduced in Turku. The aim is to double the quantity of goods transported in Helsinki. 

No plans have been made further ahead but, for example, a two-container version of the same bike is in use in Norway. With two containers on the back, the total weight of the bike surpasses the limit of 250 kg permitted by current legislation in Finland.

“The container is replaceable. Ideally, the container would be loaded up at the terminal ready to go and placed on the back of the bike so that it can be put to work straight away. We will need to consider alternatives as volumes grow,” says Tuominen.

The main purpose of the bike is distribution, but it is also partially about visibility in the city and at various events. Last year, the bike and its riders took part in the Satamahulinat event at the port, where reflectors were given out to children as the school year was just beginning. This year, the bike will be a feature of the streetscape until the end of August.

Cargo bikes in DHL’s colours zip around the centres of Helsinki and Turku. The company aims to have zero logistics emissions by 2050. Cutting the emissions of distribution is an integral part of this endeavour.