This is the second in a series of RIPPL posts about Outspoken! Delivery, a cycle logistics company based in Cambridge which uses cargo bikes and trikes to deliver a number of different services in innovative ways. The first, about how the company is beginning to use heavy duty components on their fleet of e-trikes, is available here. Outspoken is currently the biggest independent cargo bike courier company in the UK.
Based on the edge of the Cambridge, Outspoken is positioned conveniently both for the city and the A14 (a major trunk road leading from the sea ports in Felixstowe and Harwich to the East, and the A1 and Birmingham to the West). This position allows them to act as a consolidation hub for city centre last mile deliveries. Packages are then divided efficiently amongst Outspoken riders on localised runs across the city. These trips into the centre of Cambridge would almost certainly otherwise have been carried out by motorised goods vehicles.
Since 1995 Cambridge city centre has been closed to vehicles between 10am and 4pm on weekdays, so cycle logistics is one of the only options available for daytime deliveries. Gary Armstrong of Outspoken estimates that 80% of their clients do not think about green credentials when selecting the company. Practical considerations like access to the city centre as well as price and level of service are much more important considerations to them.
This demonstrates a truism in private sector cycle logistics; initiatives don’t exist in a bubble and business models must be optimised so that customers and users are properly incentivised to use the services on offer. In other words, whilst the green ‘zero emissions’ message is still an important part of Outspoken’s marketing strategy, the company must also prove itself as the most viable and efficient provider of logistics to a place-sensitive, time-sensitive and cost-sensitive client base.
With this in mind, Outspoken are also drawing up plans to use a shipping container as a mini-hub on the opposite side of the city. The idea is to enable traffic passing Cambridge on the M11 motorway to take advantage of the last mile delivery model. This hub would house bikes and host a workshop to maintain them, as well as acting as a secondary consolidation centre. Due to the modular nature of shipping containers, this is a flexible and expandable model which can be scaled up or down in a relatively short space of time, responding to changes in demand. All of which makes for a lower risk business model and possibly a test-bed for new innovations.
Containerisation is a trend we’ve covered before in RIPPL posts but it comes in two scales. Firstly there are examples like this, where shipping containers are imaginatively repurposed as modular buildings. Secondly, at a smaller scale, there are containers that can be transferred to and from bikes in the same way shipping containers are transferred to and from ships, trains and trucks. We’ll be covering the latter in more depth in future posts.
Innovations: consolidation, containerisation
Organisation: Outspoken! Delivery
Sector: Private / Commercial
Cities: Cambridge, Norwich, Glasgow
Bike Manufacturer(s): 8 Freight, Bullitt, Cycles Maximus, Radkutsche
Contact: Gary Armstrong / firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)1223 719 594
The Guardian Bike Blog: “Why Cargo bike deliveries are taking over the UK’s cities”