UPS Kicks Off Year-Round E-Trike Delivery Service in Pittsburgh

The company is starting with one trike downtown that can carry 300-400 pounds.

Photo: UPS
Photo: UPS

International shipping giant UPS is dipping a toe into pedal-powered delivery in American cities.

Last week, UPS began making deliveries using an electric trike in downtown Pittsburgh. It’s the first U.S. city with year-round UPS e-trike service, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

The company also tested e-trike deliveries in Portland during the holiday season last year. In both cities, UPS uses a vehicle made by Portland-based Truck Trike that provides a battery-powered assist.

UPS delivery service by e-bike has been common for several years in European cities, according to spokesperson Deanna Cain. In crowded urban contexts, the smaller vehicles can be more efficient, she said.

Pittsburgh was chosen for its narrow downtown streets, said Cain. “What’s nice about it in a downtown city like Pittsburgh, it can go in the bike lanes, when the bike lanes are widen enough,” she added. “It takes up less space, it’s quick and zero emissions.”

The program in Pittsburgh is small — just one trike that can carry 300-400 pounds. It remains to be seen whether UPS will scale up its use of trikes and get its bulkier trucks off the streets, but Cain said the company is looking to expand the practice in other American cities.

  • Vooch
  • AnoNYC

    This would make so much sense in NYC for so many delivery companies.

  • dfiler

    As a Pgh resident, i’m interested to see how this pans out. Downtown here is almost entirely flat. If that is the intended service area, it seems like a good fit. Otherwise, the rest of the city is a maze of randomly steep, narrow, wide and high speed, disconnected mess.

    Not to be negative. Rather, this is an interesting development and i’m curious to see if it is economically viable. From an activist standpoint it is great. From a economic or pragmatic standpoint, i honestly can’t tell if this is a publicity trial or a viable first run.

    Thoughts?

  • jf

    It’s not “zero emissions” unless you can demonstrate that the charging system gets its juice from non-emitting sources.

  • GregKamin

    So if a delivery trike blocks a bike lane, then no harm, no foul?

  • David S

    Yes! Delivery trucks account for a disproportionate amount of misery in cities– from sound and air pollution, from their space requirements, and from their danger to people not in cars (typically the combination of larger blind spots + wide turning radius).

    Happy to see someone giving it a shot, even at this scale and even for publicity’s sake.

  • SingleOccupantDriver

    Great. And for highway to city deliveries, think thin with thin electric vehicles: 1. Thin vehicles mitigate congestion 2. 100% electric vehicles cleaner for air than gas powered cars 3. Thin electric vehicles share lanes and parking spaces with bicycles safely. 4. When parked to curb, opening doors in thin electric vehicles will not present bike dooring hazard. 5. Right-sized electric vehicles far better shape for single-occupant driving, too. 6. They’re fun to drive. Thin wins.

  • AMH

    I’ve seen a few (mainly food and groceries) that use cargo bikes!

  • Vinstar

    Interesting idea but the bike looks like it would be really top heavy with high center of gravity, especially with just three wheels and all that weight in the back. Looks kinda dangerous.

  • AMH

    Absolutely, contrast this with NYC, where the mayor is directing police to confiscate these types of electric delivery cycles.

  • Chase

    That’s because Bill de Blasio is a charlatan with no concept of urban infrastructure, who has decided that vanity projects like the ferry system that carries fewer passengers/week than any single subway line and a fantastically useless streetcar deserve more attention than practical, achievable initiatives.

  • Stephen Simac

    The heavy batteries are probably beneath the floor, which should stabilize it. Still you wouldn’t want to turn sharply. Trikes are more stable when two wheels are in front, like the ELF

  • Warren Tucker

    Our pedal powered vehicles are legally permitted to operate in NYC, they are strictly Non-Motorized and can also run on the TURNPIKE!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/87da21ae6911f1e8a142322ae33ce56871addd9392a0e610c76a803a71259d38.jpg

  • Bernard Finucane

    I live in Germany, and the post office has been delivering mail (but not packages) to my house on an electric bike for years. The bikes take up almost no space and are almost unnoticeable except a slightly whining noise from the motor you have to train your ear to hear. Also the mailman tells me they make his job a lot easier, because its so easy to park and move around.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Hill climbing isn’t bad on an electric bike, especially with regenerative braking.

  • Bernard Finucane

    See my comment above, they use the same model in my neighborhood.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    “Zero emissions” for vehicles means zero *local* emissions. It may not be incredibly helpful for greenhouse gas purposes, but it still helps local air quality, and asthma and lung cancer rates.

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