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It’s City vs. Delivery Vans, and the Vans Are Winning

A pandemic-era surge in online shopping is clogging city streets with freight vehicles. Here’s how cities can take them back. 

A fleet of Amazon vans take to the streets of Hicksville, New York, in March 2020. The pandemic triggered a boom in e-commerce deliveries, and cities are feeling the effects of freight vehicles on their streets. 

A fleet of Amazon vans take to the streets of Hicksville, New York, in March 2020. The pandemic triggered a boom in e-commerce deliveries, and cities are feeling the effects of freight vehicles on their streets. 

Photographer: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Amazon Prime Day arrives next week, but our post-pandemic city streets are increasingly unready for prime time — even for an ersatz two-day sale manufactured by the e-commerce giant. 

Last year’s Prime Day racked up a record $10.4 billion in sales, part of a surge in online retailing that grew by a looks-like-a-typo 44% during the pandemic in 2020 and now make up 21.3% of all retail sales — the largest one-year increase in market share in history. Online shopping became a lifeline for people to order food and supplies safely during lockdowns, a disruption that may have permanently reset consumer habits. Some estimate that 2022 will be the first year to record at least $1 trillion in online sales.