Population growth in cities comes with a increased demand for goods. These goods need to be transported to get to their consumers. The movement of these goods within the city is what we may call urban freight.
The developing world has put little consideration into the management of urban freight within its urban planning frameworks. Most cities deal with urban freight as part of the rest of the vehicular transport.
In cities like Nairobi, Kenya, urban freight that contributes to daily traffic includes garbage trucks, construction material trucks, and delivery vans and motorcycles. Hand carts and cyclists are also popular because of the large informal sector. The vehicles bring the challenge of air and noise pollution, in addition to traffic law infractions.
The last few years has seen a growth in internet usage and e-commerce, thus the development of door-to-door delivery services. The City of Nairobi is no exception to this and the impact has resulted in increased motorcycle delivery services in the city.
Most deliveries of fresh produce to either local shops or major supermarkets are done early in the morning thus may not interfere with peak hour traffic. However, this may not be the case for non-perishable goods. Deliveries to informal markets vary in time and mode - from handcarts to pick-up trucks - and lorries - thereby influencing the traffic of the city.
The biggest freight challenge in Nairobi however, is caused by large trailers transporting goods across the country; utilizing Nairobi's less commercial thoroughfares. These are forced to drive through the heart of the city, adding to the mounting traffic. Proposed solutions include construction of by-passes that will take a loop around the city or the construction of a new rail service to increase rail use and reduce road usage.
The increasing popularity of urban freight is bound to have a lot of repercussions, like road allocation and pollution similar to the case of Mexico City's urban freight. It's believed that their urban freight system causes 20-60% of carbon emissions. Furthermore, loading and unloading of vehicles in the Central Business District is seen by many as waste of valuable time.
Managing urban freight can be done through creating off limit zones during peak hours, not allowing freight vehicles on certain roads at peak hours, controlling the trucks that have access to the Central Business District or the creation of loading zones to prevent congestion. More advanced systems look into reducing deliveries by emphasizing more storage space in businesses. Other countries have opted for logistics parks where trucks are stored and all services provided. Having dedicated lorry and bus lanes as well as lorry maps are also options.
The importance of urban freight in the modern economy requires urban planners to support rather than restrict and control it, while managing the negative impacts.
Has urban freight caused a nuisance in your city? How much influence does urban freight have in developing cities? What steps should African cities take to manage their urban freight?
Credits: Images by Constant Cap. Data linked to sources.