Photo by JavyGo on Unsplash

Roadmap Shows How Cities Can Plan For Large-Scale Cargo E-Bike Adoption

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Most delivery services in cities rely on gas- or diesel-powered trucks and vans, which not only produce quite a bit of emissions when both driving and idling, but also contribute to jamming up roadways, parking spots, and bike lanes. And because our modern lifestyle tends to rely heavily on grocery and takeout deliveries, our online shopping habits have radically increased the number of package deliveries to homes and businesses, and we’re fast becoming a culture that expects same-day goods and services for just about everything, the amount of vehicles dedicated to keeping us in clover is really getting out of hand.

One major solution to alleviating at least some of the congestion and pollution from last-mile delivery vehicles already exists — cargo bikes and e-bikes — but the transition away from pollution-spewing vehicles and toward cleaner and greener options is really not happening that quickly. Perhaps part of that is simply a lack of availability, meaning that logistics and delivery businesses with e-bike options are usually the exception, rather than the rule in many places, and part of it is because changing a system that was designed primarily for full-sized vehicles requires a different sort of infrastructure — and a different set of policies.

For urban planners, city managers, street departments, and fleet operators, preparing for and implementing a micromobility-based delivery ecosystem might be a bit of a challenge, but a new white paper offers a roadmap to a more sustainable (and healthier) zero emissions conveyance system. The Urban Freight Lab, a public-private partnership housed at the University of Washington, has recently published “Biking the Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of E-Cargo Bikes,” which could be a helpful document for many of the key stakeholders in both the public and private sector.

Recent developments in electromobility have provided an opportunity to reduce some of the negative externalities generated by urban logistics systems.

Cargo e-bikes — electric cycles specially designed for cargo transportation — represent an alternative environmentally friendly and safer mode for delivering goods and services in urban areas. However, lack of infrastructure, legal uncertainties, and a cultural and economic attachment to motorized vehicles has hindered their adoption. Cities play a crucial role in reducing these barriers and creating a leveled playing field where cargo e-bikes can be essential to urban logistics systems.

The white paper includes an explanation of what cargo e-bikes are and how they have been successfully integrated into some North American cities as a cleaner option than gas-powered delivery vehicles, and then it lays out 9 recommendations and 21 actions that can be taken, broken out into four main categories:

  • Infrastructure: Cycling, parking infrastructure, and urban logistics hubs
  • Policy and regulation: E-bike laws, safety regulations, and policies de-prioritizing vehicles
  • Incentives: Purchase rebates and business subsidies
  • Culture and education: Labor force training, educational programs, and community-driven adoption

The white paper is a free PDF download, and can be accessed at the Urban Freight Lab.

Photo by JavyGo on Unsplash


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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

Derek Markham has 529 posts and counting. See all posts by Derek Markham