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Why urban freight can no longer be an afterthought

Photo: NYC DOT

Ian Wainwright, who managed London’s freight during the 2012 Olympic games, paints an honest picture of the day-to-day necessity–yet rarely thought of world by residents–of urban freight.

“In cities we just expect things to be there: a cup of coffee in the morning, blood in the hospital if we need it,” he says. “But probably 90 percent of everything we consume, live in and wear was delivered over the road.”

He reveals that in the London morning peak, trucks account for anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of neighbourhood traffic.

Wainwright, who now consults with Future City Logistics, says that “even though they’re just 16 percent of London’s traffic overall, trucks contribute more than 30 percent of the city’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution”.

Congestion-free roads are in short supply. In addition to causing frustration and delays for residents, urban congestion is a major contributor to city air pollution and worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Idling and slow-moving vehicles produce more emissions compared to vehicles in free-flowing traffic, which means that as transport demands increase in urban areas, it’s not just the volume of vehicles that increases–the environmental impact per vehicle does as well.

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