The new year will mark the end of an era for the Royal Mail. Its postal staff will stop using the red Pashley Mailstar, once a common sight across the UK. Since 2010 Royal Mail has removed 13,000 to 14,000 bikes from its operation, leaving between 3,000 to 4,000, and in 2014 even these will be phased out entirely.
However, where Royal Mail is retracting its cycles many around the UK are doing just the opposite.
Royal Mail says the removal of bikes reflects the changing nature of mail: thanks in part to our growing love of online shopping; with more packages and fewer letters modern mailbags are bulkier and heavier. Royal Mail will now mostly deliver on foot using trolleys which, it says, are more efficient than bicycles.
However, cycling charity CTC‘s campaigns and policy director, Roger Geffen, disagrees. He says:
“There are plenty of operators who recognise that bike is an extremely efficient answer, you have just got to find the right bike. I cannot see why they think the traditional post bike isn’t appropriate for the loads they’re carrying. When CTC did our Keep Posties Cycling campaign three years ago, at first [Royal Mail] just ignored us, until we arrived with a very large number of letters delivered by post bike. They had actually done research into different options: there were bikes that met their needs that couldn’t be produced in large enough volumes and there were bikes that could be produced but they didn’t work well.”
He said Royal Mail also looked at e-bikes, though above a certain weight an e-bike falls into the motorbike category.
It would be sad to see them cut from service completely, and certainly our postie loves to use her bike – she’d be gutted if she was no longer able to do it and is convinced it would slow her down.