UPS cargo bike might deliver green future
Shipping giant to test vehicle that helps reduce city congestion
A new type of vehicle is about to roll out on Toronto’s streets.
UPS, the U.S.-based shipping giant, is launching a pilot project using cargo bikes for package deliveries.
At a press conference outside city hall to mark the launch of the project Monday, Mayor John Tory said deploying cargo bikes could help reduce congestion and mitigate the “traffic nightmares that people experience in this city.”
“It’s time we take a look at something like this because it’s being done in Frankfurt, in Vienna, in Hamburg, in Rome. And it has made a difference in those cities; they know that,” he said.
According to UPS Canada president Christoph Atz, this is the first time it has piloted the vehicles in Canada, although it has used cargo bikes in cities around the world.
Atz called it “another step toward a more sustainable city.”
Evaluation of the project “will determine our strategy going forward for cargo delivery by bicycle on a larger scale in Toronto and potentially to other cities across Canada,” Atz said.
According to a spokesperson for the company, the pilot will begin soon and will “continue until it is determined that the weather may jeopardize the safety and comfort of the UPS rider.”
The company has chosen York University and the surrounding neighbourhood as a testing area, in part because its proximity to the corporation’s main distribution hub. The specialized bike weighs roughly 217 kg empty and has a payload capacity of up to 408 kg, including the driver, according to a fact sheet provided by the company. It is 2.8 metres long and can hold up to 50 packages.
Safety features include headlights, tail lights, turn signals, side markers and hazard lights. The lights are powered by a solar panel on the vehicle’s roof.
Because of its size, the bike won’t be allowed to operate in bike lanes, Tory said.
Nithya Vijayakumar, a senior adviser on transportation and urban solutions at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, recently authored a report advocating for the increased use of cargo bikes in Toronto.
It determined that 16.4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from vans, light-duty trucks and SUVs.
“Replacing delivery vans with cargo bikes is going to be great for improving air quality and congestion,” Vijayakumar said.
According to the report, at least four smaller companies in Toronto already use cargo bikes as part of their business.
Vijayakumar said she hoped a major company piloting the vehicles will help bring the idea into the mainstream.
“Seeing a UPS cargo bike zipping around the city will, hopefully, demonstrate to other large shipping companies that, sometimes, the most innovative solutions are those that go back to the basics,” she said.
UPS is advocating for changes to provincial regulations that would allow the company to deploy electric-assist cargo bikes, which have an electric motor to help the driver climb hills or speed up quickly after a traffic stop. Atz said the technology “would significantly increase the efficiency” of cargo-bike delivery.
There is no provincial classification for electric-assist cargo bikes heavier than 120 kg, and allowing the vehicles on the road would require changes to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.