UPS Begins Delivering Packages via E-Trike in Portland

Deliveries by e-trike: Now happening in Portland. Photo: Bike Portland
Deliveries by e-trike: Now happening in Portland. Photo: Bike Portland

Delivery trucks are terrible for city streets, polluting the air, blocking bike lanes, endangering pedestrians and cyclists. But cities need the goods they carry.

One way around the problem of big trucks is to divide deliveries into smaller loads, carried with smaller vehicles. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports on an encouraging development on that front: UPS is piloting the use of an electric-assist trike for deliveries. There were already independent companies using trikes for deliveries in Portland, and the UPS move suggests larger companies may want to get in on the action, Maus reports:

Using trikes and other small, pedal-powered vehicles to deliver cargo in dense urban areas is relatively common in Europe. The European Cyclists’ Federation (an EU-funded non-profit) says 25 percent of all goods could potentially be delivered bicycles. That number rises to 50 percent when just considering lightweight cargo…

UPS Senior VP of Global Engineering and Sustainability Mark Wallace, UPS senior VP of global engineering and sustainability said using pedal-power gets back to his company’s roots. They started 109 years ago as a bike messenger company. “While we have evolved and developed a vast network of ground and air vehicles,” Wallace said, “the bicycle may be making a comeback as we navigate through crowded urban areas and continue our focus on environmental sustainability.”

UPS’s new trike will share the bike lanes with existing local pedal-powered freight delivery companies like B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery and Portland Pedal Power — two businesses with successful track records…

B-Line Owner and CEO Franklin Jones said in an interview this morning that cargo trikes are very safe. “It’s a total win for the Vision Zero concept… The worst thing our trikes have ever done is taken out someone’s mirror.”

A trike will also likely save UPS money in parking tickets. A 2006 study (PDF) in Canada found that three delivery companies (including UPS) were issued 34,000 parking tickets in just one year that amounted to about $1.5 million in fines.

Jones, who has been in business since 2009, said he’s excited to see UPS enter the fray. “This is a good thing for us all. It’s a rising tide.” Jones says using trikes is far from simply a photo-op for sustainability. His business is strong and has grown each year. B-Line currently has eight cargo trikes in full-time use and six more are on the way.

UPS says if their Portland pilot is successful they will consider adding more bikes to the fleet next year. It’s unclear whether they’d continue to use the locally-made Truck Trike or if they’d buy trikes from another vendor.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment weighs in on Donald Trump’s disastrous pick to run the EPA. Comeback City explains Baltimore’s new bike-share system, which will be largely e-bikes. And Greater Greater Washington looks at how collisions can throw priced express lanes like Virginia’s 495 into chaos.

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