Dark commerce — The Hague needs Gazprom — Greening Walloon urban transport – POLITICO

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The hunger for fast delivery in the age of the pandemic has led to the rise of so-called ‘dark’ commerce – the warehouses and kitchens from which delivery people come in and out to pick up and deliver goods – across Europe .

While dark stores give consumers one-click access to takeout and groceries, they also disrupt a neighborhood’s traffic flows, prompting complaints from residents who are fed up with scooters loud and reckless driving.

We’ll dig into the issue — and the political battle brewing over black trade in Paris — after the jump.


‘DARK’ DISTURBANCES: Few of us can claim to have never ordered takeout at the end of a long day, or to break the monotony of home cooking. Delivery apps make things easier, after all. But this convenience has a downside. These fast shipments rely on supposedly dark stores and kitchens dotted around the city, and for those living nearby, the 24/7 delivery schedule has become a major noise and traffic nuisance.

Public pressure: In places like Barcelona’s Les Corts district, residents demanded that leaders take action to curb the constant comings and goings of noisy delivery scooters. In the Spanish city of Segovia, police arrested four drivers who were driving without a license or on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas while delivering food.


Residents living near ‘dark’ shops have called for action to curb disruptive delivery scooter traffic | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

French Fracasses: The question of regulating dark commerce has become a hot topic in France, after the leak of a proposed government decree that appeared to designate all locations with a click-and-collect counter as retailers rather than wholesalers. This would “de facto legalize” dark stores nationwide, according to Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire. The draft text sparked outrage and prompted the mayors of Bordeaux, Lille, Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg, Paris and other cities to demand regulatory tools for cities to crack down on all dark shops and kitchens, not just those without click-and-collect. counters.

Just testing the waters? A French government spokesperson said cities will eventually have the power to regulate such establishments as they see fit and that the draft decree is simply intended to legally define dark shops.

Too little, too late? Even as local and national governments come up with new rules to limit the impact of dark stores, some say it’s already too late. As with AirBnb and e-scooters, the disruption happened too quickly to regulate. The heyday of delivery apps can also be short-lived. The pandemic-era delivery boom is largely over and start-ups are slowing down rather than continuing to grow.

My colleagues Peter O’Brien and Pieter Haeck have more here.



The Hague seeks controversial exemption | Aitor Hernandez-Morales

BREAKING UP IS HARD: The Hague is asking for a temporary exemption from EU sanctions against Russia, saying it is struggling to find a new gas supplier to replace its existing deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom. Current EU sanctions force governments and public bodies to terminate all existing contracts with Russian companies by October 10. be the one to ask for more time: a number of Dutch municipalities also have energy contracts with Gazprom.

EARLY RETREAT: Nobody said it would be easy to get Brussels to give up the car, but the speed with which some municipalities are abandoning measures to reduce car use is surprising. This week, the municipal authorities of Molenbeek announced that they were ending the traffic pilot project in response to complaints from local traders. They promised to come back with a new plan in three months.

NEW SEC-GEN EUROCITIES: The former vice-president of the Nantes metropolis André Sobczak this week took the helm of Eurocities, the network of more than 200 cities which campaigns for a better quality of life in urban areas. He succeeds Anna Lisa Boni, who resigned last year to become deputy mayor of Bologna. Among his priorities, he cites the training of the next generation of municipal leaders and the adaptation of cities to climate change. His first mission took him to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and discuss support for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities.

RUN LEONIE, RUN: As part of her personal farewell to Germany’s €9 national transit system, my colleague Leonie Kijewski set about trying to travel 750 kilometers from Aachen to Germany’s western border with Belgium and the Netherlands up to Görlitz on the Polish border. If you haven’t had the chance yet, I highly recommend his epic tale. In addition, the Association of German Transport Companies published a study this week estimating that, since 10% of train journeys would otherwise have taken place by car, CO2 production was reduced by around 1.8 million tonnes. by the program.


IS WALLONIA ATTACHED TO CARS? The Brussels region is taking steps to reduce the number of cars on its streets, but just to the south, in the French-speaking region of Wallonia, car culture is still deeply ingrained. My colleague Camille Gijs spoke with Olivier Saint-Amand, the mayor of Enghien, to talk about the challenges to be met in order to change the local mentality towards the car.

Cultural differences: Although the city of 14,000 inhabitants is located on the border between Flanders and Wallonia, its relationship to cycling is resolutely Walloon. “For a young Flemish, taking his bike will seem a bit trendy,” said Saint-Amand, a member of the eco-friendly party Ecolo. This is not the case in Enghien, where until a few years ago, children who went to school by bicycle parked them at a distance to avoid being made fun of by their comrades, he recalls. But while there is still a “cultural problem”, something is changing. Faced with a cost of living crisis, he said people were paying attention to where they could save money and taking bikes for shorter journeys.

The plan: Saint-Amand, as former alderman of Enghien in charge of mobility, drew up the town’s current mobility plan, which aims to promote cycling with designated cycle paths, safe zones around schools and improved routes to the city’s train station. Between 2019 and 2024, the city plans to invest nearly €1.5 million in infrastructure and the promotion of cycling. Some of this money comes from the Walloon regional government’s plan to subsidize bike-friendly infrastructure across the region.


The medieval church of Saint-Nicolas de Myre in Enghien is surrounded by a car park | Aitor Hernandez-Morales

Paved Landscape: Saint-Amand acknowledged that the bike-friendly plan is “to the detriment of the car”. Future plans will give more space for pedestrians and cyclists, but local authorities are working on two major parking projects outside the city centre, he said.

Afraid of the unknown: Many residents are hesitant to adopt a new, less car-dependent way of life and worry about how it will change the city, according to Saint-Amand. “Change is scary, for everyone, including me.” But the mayor said he was optimistic that things were moving in the right direction: “There is a change in modality, and with the price of energy, that will only strengthen this movement. Something is happening. Another reason for his optimism: Walloon Mobility Minister Philippe Henry is another member of the green party – which Saint-Amand says would lead to more investment in sustainable transport.



Last week we asked readers to write to us with suggestions for streets they would like to see pedestrianized.

Janet Kaiser, from Criccieth, Wales, suggested Oxford Street in London and the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In Washington, DC, reader Ned Russell suggested New York’s Pennsylvania Avenue or Park Avenue.

This week we would like to hear about your experiences with the €9 monthly transport ticket in Germany. Whether you live in the countryside or use it when visiting in the summer, what were your impressions? Where did you go and how was your journey? Let me know.



The dismantling of a Soviet-era monument in Riga | Kaspar Krafts/AFP via Getty Images

— I was struck by the visuals and the clarity of communication in this video published by the Mayor of Riga, Mārtiņš Staķis, showing the destruction of Soviet monuments in the Latvian capital and explaining how 2.1 million euros will be spent to beautify the parks where they once stood.

— The Ambassador of the Cycling Embassy of the Netherlands, Mark Wagenbuur, has put together a beautiful video decoding the poetry that adorns the walls of a 1,300 meter long stretch of the Beneluxtunnel. Having read it a few weeks ago, I am delighted to finally understand what all these words mean!

— This opinion piece by Cian Ginty in the Irish Cycle points to an interesting trend: Dublin’s successful efforts to reduce car traffic have led to a ‘huge return to city center living’. It also argues that access to sustainable transport is key to the success of housing development strategies.

— Spat on it, abused it and ran off the road. The Guardian’s Helen Pidd has this slick article on why cyclists in the UK have become targets in a nasty culture war.

THANKS TO: Giovanna Coi, Peter O’Brien, Pieter Haeck, Camille Gijs, my editors Esther King and James Randersonand my producer Julia Poloni.

POLITICO’s Global Policy Lab is a collaborative journalism project seeking solutions to the challenges facing modern societies in a time of rapid change. Over the next few months, we’ll be hosting a conversation about how to make cities more livable and sustainable.

More… Aitor Hernandez-Morales

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