News that the Post Office and members of the Communication Workers’ Union had agreed that bicycles were no longer suitable for use on delivery rounds certainly got the nostalgia-fans talking. They went misty-eyed at the thought that they would never again receive their deliveries from a postie on a pushbike.
And while some sentimentality at the passing of the two-wheeled era for delivery workers could be expected, the decision highlighted the extent to which the landscape for all home and business deliveries has changed in a relatively short time. The dramatic fall in the number of letters being sent has received widespread attention, and has rightly been blamed on the fact that almost anything that was once said in a letter can now be conveyed just as easily by electronic means – and even the attachments can be far more exciting than just static photographs.
Once everyone had mastered the ‘new’ art of electronic communication, it was inevitable that writing a letter wouldn’t hold the same appeal any more. But conversely, the rapid demise of the written letter has coincided with a reverse trend in the number of parcels being sent. And this rise is another reason why the death knell has been sounded for delivery services on two wheels. The bikes themselves increasingly have had to be fitted with ever-larger panniers to allow them to carry the extra parcels which are now part of every delivery round, and it has reached the stage where delivery staff often have difficulty with the sheer size of the loads they are expected to carry.
With parcel deliveries inexorably increasing, it was inevitable that the bikes would have to give way to more vans. Private delivery companies have, of course, known this for a long time, and the Transit van and its like, adorned in an ever-increasing array of unmissable liveries is a ubiquitous sight across the land. Some will welcome the retirement of most delivery bikes. Thousands of riders have been killed or injured in the past 15 years in accidents while making deliveries, and the roads are certainly a less friendly place for them than ever. But the need for greater productivity from delivery workers dictates that they have the right vehicle for the job – and almost universally, that now has four wheels rather than two.
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