Amazon, UPS and DHL are testing cargo bikes in New York City

Key Points
  • Amazon, UPS and DHL are the first participants in a pilot program focused on reducing congestion south of Manhattan's 60th Street. 
  • New York City plans to use electronic tolling to charge drivers entering the area in 2021 in an effort to ease congestion. 
  • The New York City Department of Transportation commercial cargo bike program is testing the plan's feasibility and safety.
A DHL Cargo bike in Berlin.
Source: DHL

New York City is testing a pilot program that would take some deliveries out of the hands of drivers in cars and vans and put them on bikes.

UPS, Amazon and DHL are taking part in the Commercial Cargo Bike Pilot Program, which launches Wednesday using bikes with large containers attached. 

The test will occur in Manhattan below 60th Street, which is the area where the city plans to implement a "congestion pricing" plan starting in 2021. Under that plan, passenger vehicles will be charged as much as $14 and commercial trucks as much as $25 to enter the area during peak commuting hours.

The New York City Department of Transportation said their goal is to have 100 cargo bikes in the pilot.

"DOT is excited to announce this pilot to make freight deliveries in NYC safer and greener by encouraging the use of pedal-assist cargo bikes instead of trucks," said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

She noted that trucks have been involved in a disproportionately high number of cyclist fatalities in the city this year. 

"We are especially interested in the safety benefits this pilot can bring to our streets," Trottenberg said. "We thank UPS, DHL and Amazon for their participation and invite other interested freight companies to join and help us make this pilot a success."

A UPS cargo bike in Seattle.
Source: UPS

The tranportation department is requiring all delivery bikers to have identification, undergo safety training sessions and not exceed speeds of 15 miles per hour. Cargo bikes are permitted on city streets and can in some instances park on sidewalks, but they must be stored overnight in company facilities. NYC DOT will use the trial to collect data and finalize rules for speed limits, size and parking rates.

UPS is part of a similar pilot program in Seattle, which started in October 2018. There pedal-assist e-bikes are being used to deliver packages.

DHL uses what it calls a "Cubicycle" to deliver packages in Europe and claims each one is able to replace a conventional delivery van. 

"DHL has set a number of ambitious environmental targets, including achieving net zero emissions from transport activities by 2050 and performing 70% of last-mile deliveries with green vehicles by 2025," said Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas. "Cargo bicycles will play an important role in hitting both of those targets."

Congestion is a growing problem in New York City. According to the DOT's 2019 Mobility Report released in August, for-hire vehicle trips increased 81% from 2013 to 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. Meanwhile, 45% of residents receive a package sent to their home at least once a week.

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