IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Build the Bike Lanes and the Delivery Bikes Will Follow

Cargo bikes are quickly becoming the next innovation in the logistics industry. As such, cities and the private sector will need to work together to create new rules and the right infrastructure.

Electric cargo bikes were a significant feature of the recent Micromobility America conference in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Image courtesy of Trivel (via Facebook)
Cities have a new reason to develop bike infrastructure — to serve businesses who bike.

New technologies around electric cargo bikes and logistics software is opening the door to new business models in the freight delivery space. As both the public and private sectors look for new answers to serve the growing demand for deliveries and the strain full-size vehicles place on traffic levels and curb management, bikes are appearing more attractive.

“Cities are coming and saying, 'We want to do this,' and the private sector and the carriers are saying, 'We want to do this too.' We’re starting to see that broader collaboration,” said Ben Morris, CEO and founder of Coaster Cycles, maker of electric bikes and trikes for last-mile delivery.

Where cities can be supportive, said Franklin Jones, CEO and founder of B-line Urban Delivery, a cycle logistics company based in Portland, Ore., is in the development of infrastructure like small neighborhood hubs which could be areas with temporary package storage, charging stations, “anything to reduce the commute, and increase the delivery within a tight neighborhood.”

Jones’ B-line Urban Delivery has been in operation since 2009, and has 12 delivery cargo trikes serving largely business-to-business delivery needs, but also restaurants and retail.

“So we’re moving 700 pounds at a time, multiple times of day, stopping at everything from grocery-retail, to breweries, to bakeries, to restaurants,” Jones explained at the Micromobility America conference in the San Francisco Bay Area Oct. 19. “We do home deliveries. We also work with Office Depot … doing deliveries into the city.”

The business surely benefits from operating in a city with a robust micromobility infrastructure, getting goods where they need to be quickly, efficiently and without emissions.

“We go down bike lanes. We go down shared roads,” said Jones. “We do all sorts of things that traditional delivery vehicles just can’t do, and that has given us a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Industry leaders say that as the micro-delivery-vehicle industry becomes more mainstream, logistics companies and cities will need to collaborate to create a regulatory environment that establishes cargo-bike delivery as a legitimate logistics line, while ensuring safety for operators and the public.

“I think there has to be some regulation. We’ve seen it for many years, and have always seen it,” said Stuart Hyden, president and COO of Net Zero Logistics, calling attention to the various levels of regulation attached to delivery vans and similar vehicles by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies.

“And I think as the industry matures, those are things we need to do,” he added. “I think it’s not unfair to ask a biker or a rider to be licensed. I think that’s important. I think it’s important for the companies, to begin licensing themselves.”

And as for companies wanting to get into the bike delivery market, “You got to stop thinking like a biker, and start thinking like a van,” said Hyden, emphasizing the need to give lots of attention to carrying capacity, and how to increase it.

“Capacity, to me is where this game is going to get won or lost,” said Hyden.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.