One of the disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic was the reduction of in-store shopping, and the consequent increase in online shopping and home deliveries. However, not everyone had equal access to online shopping and home-delivery services. Customers relying on food banks were forced to shop in-store even during the pandemic. In 2020, the Cascade Bicycle Club started the Pedaling Relief Project (PRP) – a not-for-profit home delivery service run by volunteers using bikes to pick up food at food banks and deliver to food bank customers, among other services.
The Urban Freight Lab collaborates with the Cascade Bicycle Club (CBC) to study and improve PRP operations. For this work, students in Prof. Anne Goodchild’s Transportation Engineering course on Transportation Logistics (CET 587) are undertaking a case study: to analyze the transport and logistics system of the Pedaling Relief Project and provide recommendations for how to improve operations.
2.1. Food rescue at a glance
An estimated 94,500 tons of food from Seattle business establishments end up in compost and landfills each year, while many members of our community remain food insecure. The process of food rescuing consists of the gleaning of edible food from business establishments – called donor businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and commissary kitchens – that otherwise would enter the waste stream and be re-distributed to local food programs. Hunger relief agencies, also referred to as food banks, are non-profit organizations that collect rescued food, either directly from businesses or through food rescue distributors (such as Food Lifeline or Northeast Harvest) and re-distribute it to the community through meal programs, walk-ins, and pop-up food pantries, student backpack programs, among others.
Read more about the Seattle food rescue system in SCTL’s report (2020) on “Improving Food Rescue in Seattle: What Can Be Learned from a Supply Chain View?”
2.2. Pedaling Relief Project
In 2020 the Cascade Bicycle Club started the Pedaling Relief Project (PRP), a volunteer-based program that collaborates with local food banks to offer three main types of services — (1) grocery delivery, (2) food rescue, (3) little free pantry restocking — coordinating a network of volunteers on bikes.
- Grocery delivery (GD) service consists of picking up grocery bags from food banks and performing delivery routes, distributing food to food bank customers that asked for home delivery services.
- Food rescue (FR) services support the existing distributors by picking up food at business establishments and carrying rescued food to local food banks.
- Little free pantries restocking (LFPR) services consist of picking up food at local food banks and carrying it to neighborhood micro pantries –containers placed on local streets and open to everyone to store food from donors to whoever needs it. Learn more about the Little free pantries project on thelittlefreepantries.org.
Volunteers use their own bikes, with some cargo carry capacity, or can request a bike trailer or cargo bike from the Cascade Bicycle Club.
2.3. Cargo Bikes
Cargo bikes are two/three/four-wheel bikes with some cargo-carrying capacity. They are increasingly used as an alternative mode to trucks and vans to transport goods in urban areas. Cargo bikes are often supported by an electric motor that assists the driver when pedaling. Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, cargo bikes do not produce tailpipe emissions and they consume less energy than electric vans (Verlinghieri et al., 2021). They also offer several operational advantages: they are more agile in navigating urban road traffic, they can use alternative road infrastructure such as bike lanes and sidewalks to drive and park, they can park closer to their delivery destination, reducing walking distances and parking dwell times (Dalla Chiara et al., 2020).
3. Project instructions
The CBC provided access to anonymous data on the PRP operations for the exclusive use of the 2022 CET 587 course student cohort final projects. Students are asked to individually perform empirical research using the provided data and/or self-collected data on the PRP operations with the following objectives:
- Empirically analyze and describe PRP operations.
- Provide recommendations on what actions can be taken to improve PRP operations.
Projects will meet the following two requirements:
- Use the provided data and/or self-collected and/or publicly sourced data to perform empirical analysis
- Provide justified and concrete recommendations on how to improve the PRP.
- Complete deliverables 1 and 2 (see below), which consist of 2 presentations, a project proposal, and a final project report.
Project progress timeline and deliverables:
|Progress & Deliverables
|Become familiar with R language programming; PRP background and data
|CBC gives a guest lecture about PRP
|Project proposal; 2-minute lightning talk about the project proposal
Deliverable 1: 1-page project proposal
|Implement proposed methodology and perform research
|Each student will give a 15-minute presentation of the main results of the project
Deliverable 2: Final report
The following are potential project directions:
- Analyze current routes performed by volunteers. How can they be improved? Get the work done more quickly, or with fewer bikes?
- Analyze data from little free pantries restocking. Collect additional data on the use of Little Free Pantries by manual observations or by installing sensors in a few of them. Can we model demand and supply for food donations?
- Collect and analyze GPS data by signing up and performing some of the PRP routes yourself. What type of infrastructure do cargo bikes need and how does street and curb use behavior differ between cargo bikes and vans? What can the city do to better support this type of activity?
- Analyze volunteers’ behaviors data. Is it possible to model the supply of volunteers? Can you simulate different scenarios of volunteer supply?
- Develop your own direction with approval.
Students will be provided with a base dataset on PRP operations. Students are encouraged to use other datasets self-collected or from public data sources (e.g. check out the SDOT Open Data Portal), to share ideas in class and among each other, to use as much as possible class time, guest lectures and office hours to ask questions and share ideas.
1: 1-page project proposal and 2-minute lightning talk describing motivation, project objective(s) and research question(s), proposed methodology (data to use/collect, methods to implement), and expected results.
2: Final report and 10-minute presentation describing data used, including sample size and sample statistics, how data collection was performed, empirical analysis performed using data and results from the analysis, and conclusions, key findings, and key recommendations.