2 May 2024

Valentina Orioli (Municipality of Bologna), "This is how we aim to make urban logistics sustainable"

Freight traffic contributes between 20 and 30 per cent of air pollution in urban areas. One third of traffic in cities is related to last-mile deliveries. With the exponential increase in eCommerce and, consequently, the number of parcels that need to be delivered to end customers, the topic of last-mile logistics has therefore become central.

How to manage city logistics sustainably and efficiently is the question that more and more cities are being asked. There is no shortage of virtuous examples. One of these is Bologna, one of four pilot cities in Europe that, thanks to the URBANE Project, are experimenting with innovative solutions for sustainable urban logistics.

We spoke with Valentina Orioli, Councillor of the Municipality of Bologna with responsibility for New Mobility, Infrastructure, Local Public Transport and City 30, about the experience of Bologna, the main challenges facing logistics and the measures that can be put in place to support more sustainable deliveries.

Here is our interview.

Councillor Orioli, first of all thank you for your availability. You have recently spent a lot of time supporting city policies on the mitigation of emissions and road congestion. Can you tell us more about the measures that the Municipality of Bologna is implementing?

Thank you! The mitigation of emissions and road congestion are two of the beacons of the current Council’s mandate programme. Bologna has applied and been chosen to be one of the 112 carbon-neutral cities aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030; a very ambitious goal that can only be achieved through shared work between institutions, businesses, the world of research, participatory companies, associations, citizens, and all those involved in this great challenge. In this context, it becomes even more important to work on the issue of sustainable mobility with coordinated policies that will make it possible to reduce the overall impact of our way of moving on the climate and the quality of the territory in which we live. On the issue of road congestion, Bologna aims at a public, accessible and integrated mobility system that represents a real convenient alternative to private transport, a new model of mobility that is indispensable for a renewed liveability, safety and democracy of public space saturated with circulating and parked vehicles, so as to give back to citizens and businesses the social, meeting, cultural, commercial, play and sports functions of a more liveable city. In this framework, it becomes essential to implement the strategies and projects of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, the General Urban Traffic Plan and the Biciplan, the Cycling Mobility Plan, to make traffic moderation possible and to affirm the right of all people, especially the most fragile, to always be protected on the road. These plans propose a strongly integrated approach between urban planning policies and territorial choices, service enhancement, mobility infrastructure, pricing policies, promotion of soft mobility, incentive and disincentive policies for mobility behaviour and new smart mobility services. Policies are mainly oriented on: Public transport, cycling, walking and public space, innovative mobility, logistics and urban planning. Measures such as Bologna Città 30 aim precisely at a new concept of city, one that is even closer to the needs of all the people who inhabit it, and that puts people’s health at the centre.

In urban areas, what are the main challenges facing Logistics? And above all, what measures can be put in place to support a more sustainable Logistics?

It is plain for all to see how the recent experience of the COVID-21 pandemic has accustomed us even more quickly to a phenomenon that was already previously on the rise; I am referring to the increasing number of online sales, which while an undeniable asset for the world of logistics, have also caused a sharp increase in delivery vehicles within urban areas, and unfortunately also the consequent increase in emissions and congestion.

This makes the topic of sustainable logistics more and more important in cities, especially as data show that the last mile of deliveries is actually the most emission-intensive part of the process.

With this in mind, it becomes even more urgent for the Municipality of Bologna to implement the actions foreseen in the PUMS (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan), in the PULS (Sustainable Logistics Urban Plan) and in the PGTU (General Urban Traffic Plan), enhancing the city’s role in the implementation of the Agenda 2030 objectives for green transformation and in the participation in the Mission 100 Zero Climate Impact Cities by 2030. In particular, among the strategies for the sustainable mobility of goods for distribution logistics in urban areas, the PULS includes the creation of Proximity Logistics Spaces (in the PULS referred to as SPLs), in areas identified close to the historic centre. This solution allows a transfer of goods from traditional vans arriving from outside the city to ecological, electric and/or muscle-powered ones, optimising at the same time deliveries within the historical centre in a shared service perspective.

Bologna is part of the group of four pilot cities in Europe that are testing some innovative solutions for sustainable logistics as part of the URBANE Project, in which GEL Proximity is also a partner. Can you tell us more about the solutions being tested in the city and what are the expected results?

Thanks to the European project URBANE, co-financed by the Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation, the city of Bologna has implemented exactly the measure contained in the Urban Plan for Sustainable Logistics I mentioned earlier. Together with ITL – Institute for Transport and Logistics, GEL Proximity and two hauliers – TYP and DueTorri – who are participating in the action as official partners of the local project consortium, we have created a first collaborative model of sustainable last-mile logistics, which will be tested during 2024. During this year, the TYP and Due Torri vehicles dedicated to the experimentation will not enter the historic centre for deliveries, but will simply stop at the three Proximity Logistics Spaces identified for this pilot phase on the perimeter of the ring roads (near Porta Lame, Porta San Mamolo and Porta San Donato) and from there the goods will continue their journey towards the historic centre on electric and space-saving vehicles.

The expected results are first and foremost, of course, those of reducing emissions and vehicle congestion in the city centre; looking more closely, however, these fundamental aspects bring with them other advantages, first and foremost the optimisation of deliveries and a new collaborative model of logistics management which – we hope – can continue to be replicated in the city, perhaps by broadening the range of subjects involved.

What role does, or can, a public institution such as the municipality play in raising awareness of the need for hauliers to work together with the public and private worlds for more sustainable logistics and, possibly, to sensitise citizens to the use of more sustainable forms of online order pick-up such as Locker and Pick-up Points?

Although it is not a direct actor in logistics, the Municipality of Bologna has played and may play an important role in the future in defining an innovative, collaborative and sustainable model for the delivery of goods, especially in urban areas and towards the city centre, which is particularly troubled by problems such as emissions (pollutants and noise) and congestion. In the URBANE experimentation, the municipality purchased and installed the three micro-hubs necessary for the ongoing test, and also arranged for the connections, adequate spaces and parking stalls necessary for loading and unloading operations. To guarantee the operability of the logistical flow, the organisation then took part in the definition of roles and responsibilities, becoming part of the operational chain to all intents and purposes, configuring itself as a sort of enabling entity for the experimental operations.

The other key role in which the public authority is decisive with regard to the impact that an innovative logistics model of this type can generate is the fact that it is responsible for the regulations and rules governing the access of delivery vehicles within the urban area. In this sense, the municipality can certainly play a decisive role in favouring the use of a more sustainable model at the expense of the traditional model.

Bologna is the first major Italian city to become City 30, i.e. to have imposed a speed limit of 30 km/l on city streets. What are the expected benefits and how will this choice impact on urban logistics?

The main objective of the new speed limit is road safety. If we consider that speed is the number one cause of fatal accidents in the city and that most of the victims are people who walk, cycle and ride motorbikes, the main expected benefit of Bologna 30 is surely to reduce road deaths in the city to zero. It goes without saying that this will not be the only benefit, since this measure brings with it other fundamental elements: if we consider that today 80 per cent of the roads are occupied only by cars and other combustion vehicles in transit or parked, it is easy to think that the more safety is increased, the more walking and cycling will increase, since 60 per cent of journeys in Bologna are already less than 5 km.

Fewer vehicles on the road will mean smoother traffic and less road congestion, resulting in less environmental and noise pollution. I believe that this scenario will also have a significant impact on the world of logistics, since less congestion and fewer accidents will also benefit logistics operators.

We thank Councillor Valentina Orioli for her availability and look forward to the next interview!

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