In a return to its 1907 roots, UPS will deliver by cargo bike in downtown Seattle

Promo photo from UPS.

111 years ago, UPS began making deliveries by foot and bike out of Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Today, the company is returning to bikes, at least for some downtown deliveries.

The global delivery giant announced the pilot today along with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“As Seattle grows and public and private megaprojects limit capacity on our downtown streets, this pilot will help us better understand how we can ensure the delivery of goods while making space on our streets for transit, bikes, and pedestrians,” said Durkan in the UPS press release. “We are eager to learn how pilots like these can help build a city of the future with fewer cars, more transit and less carbon pollution.”

The company has been experimenting with cargo bike deliveries in a handful of cities, mostly in Europe. The UPS bikes are electric-assisted cargo trikes with a rain cover for the operator and an enclosed box for the cargo.

They are not the first company in Seattle to make deliveries with such a bike. Freewheel has been operating for years, and established bike messenger companies like US Dispatch also have cargo bikes in operation.

Using cargo bikes for deliveries won’t just help reduce congestion, it also makes more sense for UPS assuming they can get the logistics right. Finding a place to stop a truck or van in dense areas of town is really difficult, so drivers often either have to park far away and haul packages by foot or choose to break the law by double parking or stopping in a bike lane.

Cargo bikes, however, can ride straight to the front door or loading dock. They are also much more mobile when traffic is heavy because they can use bike lanes. Of course, this only works when there is a bike lane to use, which is yet another reason why Seattle needs to build the Basic Bike Network downtown as soon as possible.

Depending on how the downtown pilot goes, UPS says it may expand its use of bikes for deliveries in more parts of the city.

Here’s the full press release from UPS:

In an effort to address growing traffic congestion and air quality concerns, UPS (NYSE: UPS) and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan today announced the deployment of an innovative downtown delivery pilot project using pedal-assist cargo eBikes and customized, modular trailers. The cargo eBikes will operate in the historic Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle area on sidewalks and in designated bike lanes.

“While we have launched cycle logistic projects in other cities, this is the first one designed to meet a variety of urban challenges,” said Scott Phillippi, UPS’s senior director of maintenance and engineering, international operations. “The modular boxes and trailer allow us to expand our delivery capabilities and meet the unique needs of our Seattle customers. It’s exciting to return to our roots – UPS started in Seattle in 1907 as a bicycle messenger company. We’re looking forward to being able to offer these customizable urban delivery solutions to other cities nationwide.”

Developed in collaboration with Silver Eagle Manufacturing using Truck Trikes, the cutting edge cargo eBike system will have removable cargo containers that are deployed via a specially designed trailer. This unique, “plug and play” design will provide greater flexibility to meet varying delivery needs. It will also be able to make deliveries to areas conventional delivery trucks can’t access directly and currently require that trucks be parked on the periphery for long periods of time. This will reduce congestion in these areas by reducing truck dwell time, instances of double parking and other unintended consequences associated with downtown deliveries.

UPS partnered with the Seattle Department of Transportation to develop plans for the new pilot program. If successful, UPS will expand the route and consider additional cargo eBike deliveries in other areas of the city. This is the first tailored urban delivery solution to address growing traffic congestion in Seattle’s downtown corridor, and is part of UPS’s Cycle Logistics Solutions that help reduce carbon emissions, noise, and traffic.

The UPS® cargo eBike is equipped with a battery-powered electric motor that can travel longer distances than traditional bikes, carry substantial loads and navigate hills and other terrain. The modular, detachable boxes on the trailer can hold up to 400 lbs. and have a 95 cubic foot capacity. The bikes can be operated with human pedal power or battery power, providing drivers with the flexibility they need to navigate changing terrain and energy efficiency.

“Seattle has always been the city that invents the future, and now we are partnering with one of our hometown companies to help drive innovations in transportation,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “As Seattle grows and public and private megaprojects limit capacity on our downtown streets, this pilot will help us better understand how we can ensure the delivery of goods while making space on our streets for transit, bikes, and pedestrians. We are eager to learn how pilots like these can help build a city of the future with fewer cars, more transit and less carbon pollution.”

UPS and the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab will evaluate the cargo eBike’s reliability, design and integration into Seattle’s infrastructure over the next year. The Urban Freight Lab is an initiative that brings together transportation engineers and urban planners who manage public spaces with retailers, freight carriers and technology companies supporting transportation solutions. UPS will share data and analyses from the pilot for assessment against two of the lab’s key objectives: improving first delivery attempts and reducing “dwell time,” both of which should reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

The success of the UPS eBike was first demonstrated in 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, and serves as a prototype for the company’s newest cargo eBike in Seattle. The company also operates inner-city delivery projects with delivery on foot and by bike in more than 30 major cities worldwide, including Leuven and Mechelen, Belgium; Paris and Toulouse, France; Frankfurt, Hamburg, Herne, Offenbach, Oldenburg and Munich, Germany; Dublin, Ireland; Rome and Verona, Italy; and London, U.K. in addition to the one other eBike previously operating in the United States in Pittsburgh.

Using its “Rolling Laboratory” approach, UPS deploys approximately 9,300  low-emission vehicles worldwide to determine what alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles work best in various routes and duty cycles. This includes all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and propane. In Washington, UPS uses 10 electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The cargo eBike is part of a broader UPS strategy to continue to electrify its delivery fleet.

This entry was posted in news and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to In a return to its 1907 roots, UPS will deliver by cargo bike in downtown Seattle

  1. Dave says:

    While the overall goals are certainly laudable, these cargo bikes are pretty wide. Seem like they would be effective at blocking the 2nd Ave track in both directions.

  2. Jessi says:

    I hope they won’t be parking these in the bike lanes. While they will be easier to get around than their trucks are, they are still an obstruction and bigger than a regular bike.

    • asdf2 says:

      They look small enough that they could be parked in the furniture zone of the sidewalk, rather than block the bike lane.

  3. BB says:

    Not a bad start for deliveries in the market but really, the bigger issue of private motor vehicles being allowed to drive and park in the market during business hours creates a horrible environment in an already crowded area.

  4. Brian Bothomley says:

    I remember some years ago when UPS was delivering parcels by bike and trailer in the Ballard area during the holiday season. They would off load parcels from a UPS truck to the riders who then delivered by bike and trailer. I believe they did this for two holiday seasons possibly around 2010-11?
    I talked to one of the riders and he said it was a lot of work due to the hills but they were not using eBikes at that time, an electric motor would really help.

  5. Gary says:

    “The cargo eBikes will operate in the historic Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle area on sidewalks and in designated bike lanes.”
    Shouldn’t they also have full-lane rights to the road too?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *