It becomes easier to understand the barriers to scaling up cargo bikes for last-mile delivery when you hear Mark Chiusano, Owner/CEO of Cornucopia Logistics and affiliates, talk about the complexity of operations in New York City. Cornucopia works with Amazon (both companies are Urban Freight Lab members) to run a fleet of more than 100 cargo bikes making thousands of weekly deliveries for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods locations in Manhattan. (Amazon owns Whole Foods.)
Pricey Midtown Manhattan space is leased in a private parking garage across from an Amazon warehouse to store the bike and trailer fleet. But fire prevention and other safety rules prevent the bikes from being charged there, so bike batteries have to be transported to a separate charging station, then back to the Midtown garage. And other rules — both federal and state — wind up limiting the models of cargo bikes that can be used and how they can be used. The bike fleet requires constant maintenance, yet vendors that supply skilled commercial e-bike mechanics are still few and far between. While bikes don’t require a commercial driver’s license to operate (unlike vans or trucks), wages for bikers must compete with those of van/truck drivers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost per delivery can be higher with cargo bikes than with a traditional van.
These are among the challenges of trying to scale cargo bikes for last-mile delivery in the U.S. — a key discussion at the spring meeting of the Urban Freight Lab, held in New York City. We talked a lot about potential policy solutions to surmount such challenges, too, given the growing focus on building a net-zero future. And we shared research, emerging pilots and expertise from both the public and private sectors.
To tease out possible paths to scale, members weighed in on the feasibility and effectiveness of six strategies for overcoming roadblocks in this blog post.
“What Policies Would Speed Cargo Bike Adoption in U.S. Cities? Urban Freight Lab Members Weigh In.” Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, July 20, 2023. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/cargo-bike-adoption.