It got me so annoyed (because in my view the postal bikes set a great example of working bikes that help in reducing car congestion, helping the environment and connecting the postie to his/her local community) that I decided to write both to my local MP and to Mr. Higson of Royal Mail too. (you can read my original email here)
I got a reply from both (!)
I got an old fashion letter from my local MP which I need to follow up… just because… and I had a reply from Mr. Tolhurst of RM, which although stated the obvious and slightly lame (sorry Mr. Tolhurst) justification to phasing out the bikes was still better than nothing. And ‘just because’, I replied… at least I got it off my chest eh?! Even managing to keep it diplomatic although I really wanted to shout out how regressive and narrow-minded this kind of thinking is…
Dear Mr. Tolhurst,
Many thanks for your reply, an interesting and in depth read.
I am responding only because that I was pleasantly surprised in receiving a response at all to my original email.
I fully understand about safeguarding the health and safety of your staff; I cycle every day to work and for every day errands as I sold my car few years ago (not because I don’t ‘like’ cars, on the contrary, but because when living in a city that provides a good public transport, not having a car makes financial and environmental sense) and I witness dangerous and simply slack drivers’ behaviour every single day, which put cyclists’ safety in danger every day.
The interesting thing of the Copenhagen postmen and postwomen on bikes is that their bikes are built and equipped precisely to cater for letter, parcels etc of different size and weight. That article I sent the link of had many photographs illustrating this.
I feel that bikes similar to those in Copenhagen would work very well for our postmen and postwomen here in Britain. With regard to road safety it would be wonderful if Royal Mail, by carrying on using the postal bikes, could join force with members of the public to lobby for safer cycling infrastructure on the roads.
In the scheme of things, Government’s and Local Authorities’ budgets necessary to provide good cycling infrastructure are rather small compared to the ones needed for new roads, for example, to accommodate the ever increasing number of cars. Like in my case, one more bike on the road equals one less car, now that can’t be all bad can it?
Postmen and Postwomen on their bikes on our streets are a great, positive and vital element of our communities. I know my postman, I say hello, we have a chat and sometime for a brief period we cycle along the same stretch of the road. A postman/woman in a van is just not the same.
I know that as a huge business as Royal Mail is, you are looking into modernisation and this will require a lot of money, but I think that the postal bike should be seen as an asset, not a detriment. The maintenance and ‘running’ of a bike is miniscule compared to a motor vehicle (be this a tiny car or a heavy van, the bike is still the cheaper and more efficient solution).
I do thank you again for your email and I am no fool, I know that my email/letter will not change a thing, but I have appreciated this exchange of opinions and thoughts on the matter, and perhaps I may have just planted a tiny seed that the postal bike can be something the Royal Mail can really be proud of, as many of us, cyclists and non, members of the public, certainly are.
> From: @royalmail.com
> Subject: Re: Please save the Royal Mail bikes
> To: @hotmail.co.uk
> Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 13:29:53 +0100
> Dear Ms C,
> Thank you for your email to Mark Higson. I read the article you
> recommended with interest.
> As you know, we are currently investing £2 billion in transforming the way
> in which we collect, sort and deliver the mail to make sure we have an
> operation fit for the future. Achieving a substantial reduction in our
> carbon footprint is a core part of this programme. The bulk of our carbon
> emissions relate to our transport fleet and our buildings. We do have in
> place robust plans to reduce emissions in both areas – and we have, across
> the business, already cut total CO2 emissions by 12% since 2004-05.
> At the same time, of course, we have to adapt to the changing mix of mail
> we carry which is why we are changing the way in which we make many
> The mix of mail in a delivery bag is changing and we are delivering fewer
> and fewer letters as people move to e-mail and text. However, small
> parcels and bulky letters are growing as people move to on-line retailing.
> As our people carry heavier mail bags we have to consider the safety and
> practicality of using cycles and the long term muscular and skeletal impact
> of placing up to 16 Kgs on the shoulder. We have seen an increase in
> accidents linked to the use of cycles on busy road networks and in a number
> of cases these accidents result in major injury to our staff.
> This means that whilst we recognise that bicycles are a sustainable and
> safe mode of travel for many people, we see their usefulness out on
> delivery as increasingly limited. Indeed, to meet the changing needs of our
> customers and the evolving mail market we need to adopt a different
> delivery approach for the future.
> The changes we need to make are being planned in an environmentally
> responsible way. Where we are making more use of vans in place of bicycles,
> we are able to plan the replenishment of postmen and women with all the
> mail they need to complete their particular round more efficiently – at
> present when a postman or woman takes a bicycle out on their delivery round
> we need to send vans out loaded with the bags of sorted mail they were
> unable to take with them safely when they left the office. The new vans
> which we are now introducing in place of bicycles are smaller and more fuel
> efficient than the older larger vans that were previously used to replenish
> our postmen and women while on their rounds. We are also now able to end
> the practice of some postman and women using their own private cars on
> delivery – again, with the activity now carried out by new Royal Mail
> vehicles, such as the Peugeot Bipper, for example, which produces
> significantly less carbon than most private cars.
> It is also worth making clear our postmen and women will not be driving
> their van continuously around the delivery round, but will park and leave
> the locked van to deliver to several streets at a time using small
> collapsible trolleys. Mail for addresses closer to our Delivery Offices
> will of course continue to be delivered to on foot, increasingly using
> trolleys which can more easily accommodate today’s mix of mail.
> Royal Mail operates a national network which remains unique in delivering
> to 28 million addresses nationwide, six days a week and which is now used
> to transport mail on behalf of our competitors are well as the mail we
> collect ourselves. I am confident that we will continue to reduce our
> carbon emissions – we have already reduced the carbon footprint of the
> overall network by 12% since 2004-05 and we continue to target stretching
> annual reductions for the future.
> I can assure you that while we always need to balance a range of important
> factors in making changes to our operations – including the health and
> safety of our people and the changing needs of our customers – we will
> continue to make Royal Mail a ‘greener’ operation for the future.
> I hope this reply is helpful.
> Yours sincerely
> PAUL TOLHURST
> DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS