Postal strikes give cycle couriers a boost

But they could face stiff competition from new electric vans

The current round of postal strikes in Britain may be bad news for Royal Mail but it's proving a boon for cycle courier firms.

City Cycle Couriers who collect and deliver letters and parcels in Plymouth, Yellow Jersey Delivery in Coventry and Cycle 4 U in Birmingham have all enjoyed increased business in recent weeks.

Cycle 4 U is turning a profit for the first time it opened six months ago. Owner Stephen Young said a lot of customers had told him they would continue using his service after the strike.

Ken Holder, owner of City Cycle Couriers, works from 7.30am to 7.30pm five days a week to deliver mail across three of the city’s postcodes. He was awarded the necessary licence to deliver letters (post weighing less than 350g) earlier this year by the postal regulator. He has just taken on an extra part-time worker to help ease the workload. 

Yellow Jersey Delivery has two full-time employees plus an additional three or four couriers it can call on at busy times to help it deliver around 1,000 letters a week to six postcodes in Coventry.

Director Jonathan Prime said “We've certainly had a lot more inquiries in recent weeks. I wouldn't say people are unduly concerned about Royal Mail strike action, but they are certainly exploring alternative services.”

All this highlights the role of the bicycle in mail delivery. Loud objections have been voiced at Royal Mail proposals to reduce the role of bicycles in mail delivery.

Staff at Lincolnwalked out earlier this year in protest at the company’s proposed introduction of a system where staff using shared vans would carry the mail for several rounds. In cycling stronghold Cambridge, postmen and women complained about plans to replace bicycles with vans and trolleys.

Any increase in the use of vans would need to be squared with Royal Mail’s target of reducing fleet fossil fuel usage by 14 percent by 2010.

A new player on the field is the electric van. Royal Mail have had a couple of battery powered vehicles operating in London and are reported to be ready to bring in more electric vehicles in the capital.

They’ve been trialling Matra electric vans elsewhere with a view to using them instead of both bicycles and diesel powered vans. Coventry’s Yellow Jersey Delivery has an electric van which it uses for extra-heavy loads.

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