UPS is piloting a new electronic bicycle delivery program in Seattle – one of the nation’s most traffic-congested cities – a move Boston Bike Attorneys realize could ultimately drive down carbon emissions, expedite package delivery, encourage better biking infrastructure and make the community safer for cyclists. UPS is one of an increasing number of on-demand delivery services that has seen a boom as a result of proliferation of e-commerce behemoths like Amazon. The success of cargo e-bikes over the next year will be measured by a collaboration between the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center and the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, which has sectors that specialize in environmental and civil engineering.
City officials say they are looking forward to learning the results of the study, given the mass of large trucks that clog the city’s center. It’s not the delivery giant’s first foray into e-bike deliveries. The company has reportedly already begun testing e-bike delivery programs in 30 cities worldwide, including Portland, Oregon in 2016. Those tests involved the use of tricycles that were electronically-assisted, a wagon situated over the back two wheels holding the packages. Obviously these vehicles aren’t able to carry the same number of packages as the over-sized brown trucks that barrel through the streets every day. However, they are safer for other road users and do less damage to the already-taxed and aging infrastructures in so many cities (particularly in older cities like Boston).
The pilot bicycle delivery test in Seattle, which started last month, uses detachable containers that carry up to 400 pounds of packages, presorted per route and neighborhood, returning them once empty. In working with the city’s department of transportation, the bikes will reportedly operate within designated bike lanes, as well as on sidewalks (the wisdom of which our Boston bike attorneys question, but presumably the post-program analysis will clearly show the potential for problems, which includes the possibility of collisions with pedestrians and other sidewalk users – particularly given that part of the test area is in a college town).
It is expected to shrink delivery costs for UPS by reducing the amount of gas and automotive maintenance required, as well as eliminating the need for double handling of packages. The company is also testing approximately 9,300 low-emission vehicles worldwide.