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STATUS: In Progress YEAR: 2018 TOPIC AREA: Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: MetroFreight

Delivery couriers on bicycle in Paris: comparing two surveys

Project Summary

This proposed research contributes to a new body of research that investigates the potential of digital market places to disrupt city logistics. “Instant delivery” services provide deliveries within one or two hours after order, operated by self-contracted couriers on bicycles connected to freight demand via smartphone apps. Large companies (Amazon Prime Now) are involved together with start-ups, some of which grew into medium size companies (Deliveroo, Delivery Hero, GrubHub). These services disrupt the urban freight routine in many ways (business models, labour conditions, environmental performance, vehicle choice, delivery routes) (Dablanc et al., 2017).

Objective and method

In this proposal, we present a comparative analysis of the results of two original surveys: one was made in Oct-Dec 2016 among 96 instant delivery couriers operating in Paris (Dablanc & Saidi, 2017); another one was carried out in Jan-March 2018 (Dablanc, Saidi, Louvet). The data based on a detailed questionnaire (60 questions) is collected through: face-to-face interviews (50%); telephone interviews (20%); and email contacts (30%).

These surveys and their comparison provide a unique (to our knowledge) set of information regarding:

  • the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of these new urban couriers;
  • the operational features of their deliveries;
  • the spatial patterns of their deliveries: how do they commute to work, what are their delivery routes.

As an introduction of the research, an updated (from Dablanc et al., 2017) presentation of a typology of the main digital platforms involved in instant delivery services worldwide is made.

Preliminary results

Thanks to our current data, we can highlight more information. With around 20,000 deliveries every day, instant deliveries represent 5% of total deliveries in Paris. Among the modes of locomotion used, we find 87% of bike, 8% of scooter/motorbike and 5% of other means (roller skates, private car).

Two “generations” of couriers can be identified:

The “dilettantes” (56% of first survey’s sample): they are students, love cycling and sports in general and 85% of them work less than five hours per day. Most of them live in Paris.

The “newcomers” (26% of the first survey and much more of the second survey). They have no high school education and 82% of them work more than 5 hours a day; they represent mostly suburban minority neighborhoods kids.

Overall, 79% of delivery couriers do not live in Paris and 65% of them use public transport (they have to carry their bike with them in the trains). We were able to collect their point of view about their main items of concern. In the new surveys, first comes road safety, second comes difficulty using public transport to reach their place of work. Their working conditions remain precarious, so that in summer 2017, such as in other European cities like Milan or in the UK, groups of couriers protested and demonstrated. However, it remains difficult to organize collective groups.

Add to this the problems related to road safety, issue that emerged from the second survey. Despite this, there is very little data (no distinction between bike accidents for passenger trips and delivery activities). The City of Paris released data in the middle of 2017: 81 body accidents among couriers, but the data collection is incomplete.


Dablanc, L., Morganti, E., Arvidsson, N., Woxenius, J., Browne, M., Saidi, N. (2017) The Rise of Instant Delivery Services in European Cities, Supply Chain Forum, an international Journal.

Dablanc, L. & Saidi, N. (2017) Instant Deliveries: New Jobs and New Questions for Cities. Royal Geographical Society, RGS-IBS Annual Conference, August 30, London, United Kingdom.



Laetitia Dablanc
Director of Research, IFSTTAR, French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks - University of Paris-East
14-20 boulevard Newton, Cite Descartes
Marne la Vallee cedex 2, 77447
[email protected]

Neila Saidi
, School of Architecture and Planning
[email protected]