The distribution of goods and services in North American cities has conventionally relied on diesel-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Recent developments in electromobility have provided an opportunity to reduce some of the negative externalities generated by urban logistics systems.
Cargo e-bikes — electric cycles specially designed for cargo transportation — represent an alternative environmentally friendly and safer mode for delivering goods and services in urban areas. However, lack of infrastructure, legal uncertainties, and a cultural and economic attachment to motorized vehicles has hindered their adoption. Cities play a crucial role in reducing these barriers and creating a leveled playing field where cargo e-bikes can be essential to urban logistics systems.
This paper aims to inform urban planners about what cargo e-bikes are, how they have been successfully deployed in North America to replace ICE vehicles, and identify actionable strategies cities can take to encourage their adoption while guaranteeing safety for all road users.
Gathering data and opinions from key public and private sector stakeholders and building on the expertise of the Urban Freight Lab, this paper identifies nine recommendations and 21 actions for urban planners across the following four main thematic areas:
- Infrastructure: cycling, parking infrastructure, and urban logistics hubs
- Policy and Regulation: e-bike law, safety regulation, and policies de-prioritizing vehicles
- Incentives: rebates and business subsidies
- Culture and Education: labor force training, educational programs, and community-driven adoption
The Urban Freight Lab acknowledges the following co-sponsors for financially supporting this research: Bosch eBike Systems, Fleet Cycles, Gazelle USA, Michelin North America, Inc., Net Zero Logistics, Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) Region 10, Seattle Department of Transportation, and Urban Arrow.
Technical contributions and guidance: Amazon, B-Line (Franklin Jones), Cascade Bicycle Club, Coaster Cycles, City of Boston, City of Portland, Downtown Seattle Business Association (Steve Walls), New York City Department of Transportation, People for Bikes (Ash Lovell), Portland Bureau of Transportation, University of Washington Mailing Services (Douglas Stevens), UPS,
Dalla Chiara, G., Verma, R., Rula, K., Goodchild, A. (2023). Biking the Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of Cargo e-Bikes. Urban Freight Lab, University of Washington.