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Bike Delivery Businesses Excluded From Clean Air Freight Grant in Portland

10:57 AM EDT on June 27, 2012

A sizable amount of federal transportation funds dedicated for clean air projects goes to freight trucks. This money pays for things like diesel engine retrofits that help reduce the enormous environmental impact of the nation's delivery fleet.

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It seems that if this money is made available, there are other low-emissions delivery models that should also receive the benefits. But Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that a new grant program will subsidize the region's heavy truck operators while passing over bike delivery services that use electric assist engines:

The money comes from the federal government's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program and it's aimed at, "encouraging the purchase of zero-emission urban delivery trucks." Unfortunately the money (which comes in the form of $20,000 vouchers per qualifying vehicle) cannot be used to purchase cargo trikes and other vehicles that use human-power in addition to electric assist. One stipulation of the grants is that the vehicles weight over 10,000 pounds.

The goal of this program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so it seems promoting more freight to be delivered with pedal-powered trucks would make a lot of sense. It's too bad that ODOT doesn't yet embrace the type of freight vehicles used with much success by Portland companies like B-Line and Portland Pedal Power.

When questioned about the policy, ODOT officials told Maus that they had not considered including bike delivery services in the program. Franklin Jones, CEO and founder of B-Line, a Portland-based bike delivery service, responded: "There is a false assumption that there is no alternative [to heavy trucks] for supplying goods and services into our urban core."

According to Bike Portland, bike delivery services like B-Line are starting to appear in major cities across North America, including MetroPed in Boston, Revolution Rickshaw in New York City, and SHIFT Urban Delivery in Vancouver.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Pedestrian Observations explains how political dynamics can lead to donut-shaped transit patterns in many American cities. The Wash Cycle explains why it's appropriate to subsidize bike-share, like every other form of American transportation, despite the hazy arguments offered by the Reason Foundation on the subject. And Systemic Failure remarks the tendency for "zombie highway" projects -- those planned long before but never completed -- to return from the grave, which is occurring right now in the Bay Area.

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