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Scaling Cargo E-Bike Adoption

Scaling Cargo E-Bike Adoption
Scaling Cargo E-Bike Adoption
October 19, 2023   //   

By Jonah Bliss

The good folks at Urban Freight Lab have just released an important report — Biking The Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of Cargo e-Bikes. While it’s a must-read for anyone interested in improving our streets, cities and delivery systems, it clocks in at a hefty 40 pages.

For the “tl;dr” crowd, here’s an abridged synopsis of some key findings:

  1. E-bike Sticker Shock: Cargo e-bikes aren’t just any e-bikes. With a price tag that can reach around $5,000, they’re sometimes as much as a used van. But fret not — rebate programs are emerging to bridge the gap.
  2. Uncle Sam’s Two Cents: The Build Back Better Act is taking the hint, kind of. While the 30% off credit definitely helps the status quo, the $900 cap means savings run out pretty quickly. Still, businesses can leverage these federal incentives to transition fleets or even incentivize employees.
  3. Rocky Mountain High (Savings): Denver’s doing something right. With vouchers that felt more like golden tickets, its rebate program was a huge hit. As Denver expands its bike-friendly streets, these rebates make even more sense.
  4. Bean Town’s E-Bike Boom: Boston’s not just about tea parties anymore. Their tiered subsidies for businesses using cargo e-bike deliveries? Revolutionary! The more a company delivers, the greater the incentives the city offers to shift those trips to bikes.
  5. Procurement Power Plays: Cities have an ace up their sleeves – they can use procurement to favor cargo e-bike friendly businesses. Such preferences can also nudge infrastructure changes, like dedicated e-bike parking zones near city offices.
  6. Pedaling Towards Popularity: The first step to mainstreaming cargo e-bikes? Make biking cool (again). Creating a pro-biking culture promotes infrastructure, acceptance, and, even style.
  7. Knowledge is (E-Bike) Power: From the basics of biking to advanced level logistics training, educational programs are making waves. Businesses can leverage this by offering in-house e-bike training sessions, boosting safety and morale.
  8. Boosting Community Vibes with Green Grants: It’s not just the big guys that should have all the e-bike fun. Green grants for community groups make cargo e-bikes the stars of local events. Community-level adoption can lead to tailored infrastructure changes, like localized e-bike charging stations or community bike parking.

Do read the whole thing to get further nuance. The document also has some great diagrams breaking down the forms and functions of different types of cargo bike hardware. You do need to know your bakfiet from your cargo trike, after all.