Award for bike delivery scheme

A French bicycle delivery collective hailed as potentially the end of white van man has won a major sustainability award.

Les Boîtes à Vélo, based in Nantes was the joint winner of the £30,000 Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel, shared with Belgian community car rental network Tapazz.

Le Boîtes à Vélo has taken 30 trade vehicles off the streets of Nantes after a group of traders formed a collective using a fleet of bicycles with delivery boxes. Members range from traditional couriers to caterers and support each other with referrals. Some elect to use conventional bikes, while others have electric cycles. Although there is an investment cost, it is much less than that of a basic delivery van.

The Ashden judging panel said that "Les Boîtes à Vélo is showing that there is an alternative to the white van. With huge potential for replication across Europe, Les Boîtes à Vélo offers a real solution to cutting congestion and pollution in our cities."

Nantes hosted the global cycling conference, Velo-City, in June and it is planned to spread the concept of Les Boîtes à Vélo to other cities in France. It is estimated that the Nantes project has saved 35 tonnes of CO2 a year from eight businesses that would otherwise have used a car and 13 that would have used a van.

Another benefit is that reduced insurance, fuel and parking costs mean call-out costs to clients are less. As a result, businesses in the scheme are an estimated 20% more profitable.