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Posties tell their stories about delivering by bike

Chris Peck's picture
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As part of CTC's campaign to keep posties cycling, we've been collecting the stories from postmen and women about their experiences and why they want to keep their bikes.
Cartoon by David de Berker - Keep our Posties cycling
Cartoon by David de Berker - Keep our Posties cycling

If you are a postie who uses a cycle for your deliveries, please share your experiences to help CTC better argue for keeping cycle deliveries.  Get in touch by sending us an email, or making a comment below.


A plea from a village postie in Eastern England:

"Please don't take our delivery bikes away! I am a Royal Mail helmet and reflective wearing postie who delivers to a village. On my duty we have one van and ten bicycle deliveries based out of a sorting office. Our bikes are versatile, quiet, don't give off fumes and can be ridden past traffic jams and blocked pavements like nothing else can. I think that our bicycles are still the answer to how to carry out our deliveries, though they could be made more efficient by having a much better design. The storage panniers are not as well designed as they could be. Bikes could have small trailers towed  behind them. Imagine trying to store ten trolleys rather than bikes. How would the posties who use their delivery bikes to get to and from work cope?  It takes much longer to walk than to cycle to work and at 6am I can tell you there are no buses running at that time!

When delivering the post, some of our 'walks' start more than a mile away from our sorting offices, so we start by pedalling to get there. Imagine pushing a trolley for a mile before one even starts delivering. Also, can you see how we'd cope with trying to deliver our timed Special Deliveries too? With a bicycle we can zoom off in another direction, deliver our timed Special then cycle back and carry on with what we were doing before. Trolleys that we have to push will make this impossible. 

Also, with walk 'absorption' (where postmen who work in the office on other walks are asked to share delivering an absent postie's mail between them to make financial savings over hiring a relief postie to do the job), just imagine eight postmen pushing their trolleys all along the same mile before delivering the absent postie's mail, just to satisfy our 'new working agreement'! Ha ha! We would well and truly be the country's laughing stock.  Maybe we could have a race up the High Street!  At the moment, we are still the local friendly faces of the area, who everyone says 'Good morning!' to as we posties cycle by. 

There are many new ideas for our delivery business, which we could put into practice before they take away our Pashley bikes, our trusty steeds."

Continues...

From Redvanman in Northern England:

"I am a postal worker who delivers mail aided by a Pashley Mailstar bicycle.

The total weight of the mailbags I deliver range between 35 and 76 Kg depending on the weight of mail on a given day spread across between three and six bags.  Some of my colleagues have reported to having up to ten bags to deliver in a day.

I find the bicycle a useful means of transporting myself and mail to the intended addressees.  I normally cycle from the delivery office to a strategic position in the round with one bag weighing up to the maximum permitted weight of 16 Kg.  From there, I proceed on foot with that bag delivering its contents.  When that bag is empty, I go by bike to a designated pick up point (normally a post office, pub, shop, doctor's surgery or a lock-up) to collect subsequent bags, which have been previously taken out by van, to serve the following parts of the round. 

Sometimes there is a need to deliver out of sequence of the sorting frame at the delivery due to timed deliveries.  Occasionally, there is the requirement to assist with another round because the round has been split due to absence or low volume.

The use of trolley would severely reduce the flexibility of the use of bicycles. The trolley and delivery officer would need to transported to the round by van which more often than not have space for only one passenger.  The timing of any round using a van is dependent on the time of the last delivery officer using that van to finish. - this is more crucial where the round is served by 'crew bus' (van with additional seating).  Any dead-walk (areas of the round with gaps between premises or streets where premises exist on one side of the road only) would be more time consuming.  A postman on foot without a trolley, thereby having two free hands, can check through mail for the next address and arrange it to go straight onto the addressee letterbox rather than having to stop and separate the mail.  A trolley with a load weighing in excess of 50Kg may not handle as easily as a bicycle with a maximum of 16Kg especially with small plastic wheel crossing kerbs.  Trolleys may be more of a liability on sections of road where there may be no pavement, whereas a cycle moves with flow of the traffic.

Finally, as a cyclist, other road users often give up their right of way in favour of the peddling postie, something that does not happen when I am in uniform going to or from home on my normal steed.  As for incidents involving postal workers using bicycles for deliveries, I have not seen any statistics to indicate there is higher risk to postal workers on bikes than postal workers in vans or walking with trolleys."

From a rural postie in Lincolnshire:

"I am a postal worker who uses a cycle on a rural delivery route. I am totally against using vans on deliveries for the following reasons. The non-driver will have to walk the whole of his route probably pulling a golf trolley with two mail bags attached. Royal Mail state that taking the bag off the shoulders should be better for our backs, legs and shoulders. This is nonsense as with a cycle we do not carry a bag at all, and it is easier to push a cycle round than pull a heavily laden golf trolley.

The cycle is far better in all weathers, as in the heat when pedalling, at least you get a flow of air around you. Walking, pulling a golf trolley for four hours will be a killer in hot sticky weather. In the winter it is possible to push a bike through snow as the wheels are thin and will go through the snow. A golf trolley will be impossible to pull through snow.

Using more vans will create horrendous safety issues for the public. Parked vans will create a vision problem for motorists and pedestrians. Royal Mail drivers looking for addresses will be as bad as someone using a mobile whilst driving. The vans will be about at the same time children go to school and with modernisation they will also be at risk when they come home from school.

I cannot think of one benefit of using vans on delivery. This is purely about cutting costs on man power, as the new teams of two in vans will be expected to do all the packet runs that are now done by larger vans, as well as their own deliveries and probably a portion of another existing round, as well as rushing around to get special deliveries completed by the 1' 0 clock deadline.

I support in full your campaign to highlight this menace to society."

From Suburbanpostie in South West London:

"I'm writing as a CTC member, a keen cyclist and as a Postman.

Royal Mail have been trying to get rid of bikes for a long time (well, according to rumours every now and then) but the 'health and safety' reason has only recently come to light.

It seems strange that postmen's bikes are so dangerous that at the end of their useful lives, the bikes are refurbished and sent to Africa!

If Royal Mail were seriously concerned about 'health and safety', there are many more issues that could be addressed - to give some examples: dogs; the condition of pavements and people's paths and driveways, often just a series of trip hazards; the quality of some of the mail items we have to handle."

From a postie in Gloucestershire:

"I deliver to a semi rural area where at times the houses are spread out so the cycle aids my delivery by getting around as quickly as possible. If the bike was taken away then Royal Mails money would be wasted on wages by my taking so much time to walk the whole route. When it's really busy and there's high volumes of mail and parcels it takes no time to cycle back to a mail holding box when to walk it would take ages.

Royal Mail have said they want to take the weight of the mail off the posties shoulders, well bikes do take all the weight and with rear panniers are much more stable than a golfing trolley which falls over as the mail is delivered and the weight becomes uneven.

We have been told that some deliveries could be split and done by two people using one van between them. This would use more petrol and create maintenance costs when bikes create no pollution, use less resources and are easy to maintain.

High capacity motorised trolleys also use resources as even they have to be charged somewhere.
As for the bike being a health and safety hazard then I disagree as it can be no more dangerous than walking or driving.

It would be a sad loss to see the demise of a posties bike."

From reserve postie in Leicestershire:

"I love my Pashley Mailstar and was outraged to find out that the big bosses want to remove them. I love my bike, it's strong, sturdy and great to ride. Any suggestion that it is unsafe is rubbish in my opinion. It is no more dangerous than any other mode of transport.

The bikes are big and instantly recognisable, this probably makes them even safer than ordinary cycles. People love seeing them and I have never had a problem, neither has anyone else at the delivery office to my knowledge. We all love them. Without them it would be much more of a logistical challenge getting us and the mail out to the rounds. We would have to rely on others with vans and getting between rounds and even getting back home from the rounds would be much harder. It would add to congestion and pollution as more vans would have to be used. I would much rather have a bike with a trailer than a trolley.

There are lots of situations where a bike is better. There are some streets which have very poor road surfaces which it would be extremely hard to push a trolley down, especially if there is also no pavement, which is usual on these lanes, they are bumpy on a bike but more than manageable. The bikes go through snow, but I wouldn't like to push a trolley through it. And what about large blocks of flats? Without a delivery bag they would take forever!

Also we are more approachable on a bike, I have been stopped on numerous occasions by people who are lost or looking for somewhere or have a question about Royal Mail and deliveries. This all helps keep a good image of Royal Mail and another way of providing customer service. In a van this way of communication would be cut off."

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