Cargo Bike Pilot Reduces Emissions by 30%

The program deployed electric cargo bikes in a small Seattle neighborhood to test the effectiveness of replacing delivery trucks with lighter vehicles in the last mile of delivery.

1 minute read

October 27, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Image of electric cargo bike with UPS logo

University of Washington / Electric cargo bike used by UPS.

A pilot program that used electric cargo bikes to make deliveries in a Seattle neighborhood reduced emissions for each package by 30 percent, reports Kristin Toussaint. The bikes were meant to replace delivery trucks that "cause congestion and spew carbon emissions as they drop off more and more packages" in the last mile of delivery. "The Seattle pilot—a partnership between the city, Coaster Cycles, logistics company AxleHire, and others, coordinated by the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab—tested last-mile alternatives like e-cargo bikes and delivery lockers, in hopes of finding solutions that reduced emissions and eased traffic."

Although it might seem like zero-emission delivery vehicles should reduce emissions by more than 30 percent, "researchers counted emissions from the truck bringing goods to the micro-hub, explains Anne Goodchild, founding director of the UW Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center, which launched the Urban Freight Lab."

"Along with reducing emissions, using e-bikes and the microhub halved the number of miles traveled per package compared to traditional truck routes, which helped to reduce congestion." While the pilot program had its limitations and may not show the same results at scale, improved bike lanes and parking infrastructure could help. "Testing these ideas before they can be called solutions is a crucial step in designing better last-mile delivery, and Goodchild hopes her lab’s research helps inspire additional delivery pilots."

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