Amazon has made two key hires to its e-bike delivery team in New York City, including a former Uber manager, signaling it may be looking at the technology as another way to offer faster delivery times.
Alex Vickers joined Amazon in June to serve as a senior program manager on the company's electric bikes unit. He previously worked on the business development team at Jump, an e-bike rental company which was Uber acquired in 2018 and then sold to mobility start-up Lime in May. Vickers announced his move to Amazon in a LinkedIn post on Monday.
Amazon also hired Justin Ginsburgh in June to lead the e-bike team. Prior to Amazon, Ginsburgh co-founded New York City's Citi Bike bikeshare service and had leadership roles at JetBlue and Lyft-owned bikeshare service Motivate, where he worked alongside Vickers.
The recent hires indicate Amazon may be looking to e-bikes as another mode of transportation for last-mile delivery, the process of picking up packages from delivery stations and dropping them off at doorsteps, which is a critical and costly piece of the logistics puzzle for Amazon.
Amazon has invested heavily to expand its last-mile delivery capabilities, launching Amazon-branded vans and a network of contracted Flex drivers, as well as testing self-driving delivery robots and a fleet of delivery drones. It has also opened up hundreds of delivery stations across the country over the past few years, which help ensure its two-day, and increasingly one-day, delivery speeds.
Amazon told CNBC that it has been operating a fleet of roughly 200 pedal-assisted, e-cargo delivery bikes in New York City for the past 18 months. The bikes are being used by delivery service partners to make deliveries from three Whole Foods locations in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, with each bike carrying up to 45 packages, Amazon said. Amazon's delivery service partners — the third-party firms who handle last-mile deliveries — are required to train riders on safe operation of Amazon's e-cargo delivery bikes, which are housed and charged at Amazon facilities.
Amazon plans to expand the e-bike service significantly in the coming months, after it was well received by customers, e-bike riders and service partners, the company said. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on how many employees make up its e-bike team, which is overseen by Amazon's last-mile delivery unit.
The company had been testing electric cargo bikes for Whole Foods deliveries in New York City since last December, as part of a city-run pilot program aimed at easing congestion and reducing dependence on cargo vans for deliveries. Amazon continues to grow the team working on cargo bike delivery in New York City, according to a job listing posted in August.
Amazon has conducted small tests of e-cargo bike delivery in a number of other cities, but New York City, where Vickers and Ginsburgh are based, remains its largest location. The company is testing out e-cargo bikes from a number of companies, including Raleigh, Haibike and Rad Power, with the goal of figuring out which one works best with its operations, Amazon said.
Amazon has experimented with bike delivery before. It tested, then later shut down, bike delivery for its Prime Now delivery service in Seattle and New York City.
Other companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates and Grubhub, use bike couriers in New York City, but they're largely limited to food deliveries.