In a move to cut traffic congestion in parts of the nation’s largest city, New York officials Wednesday announced a six-month pilot program giving pedal-assisted cargo bikes access to commercial loading zones normally reserved for trucks and delivery vans.
The Commercial Cargo Bike Program will launch with 100 bikes operated by Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), UPS Inc. (NYSE:UPS) and DHL Express. Amazon already has 90 of the vehicles on the streets. UPS plans to start with a few bikes and expand their number should the initial results be favorable, said a company spokeswoman. DHL Express was not immediately available for comment. All freight companies are eligible to join the program, the city said.
The program “clarifies the operating parameters” for bikes being used for commercial purposes, city officials said in statement announcing the program. The city’s Department of Transportation is working with the New York Police Department to establish monitoring and enforcement, officials said.
Though cargo bikes are allowed on New York streets, they have never been able to park curbside in commercial spaces.
The program’s goal is to understand how fit into the city’s streetscape, if they can at all, officials said. Participants will send activity data to the city’s DOT about bike size and speed, parking, and use of bike lanes. DOT will use the information to consider adjusting its initial rules. For now, vehicle speeds cannot exceed 12 mph, and the bikes will be exempt from meter-paying requirements. Operators will require safety training, and the bikes must be stored inside company facilities when not in use.
The program will focus on the area of Manhattan south of 60th Street, an area of extreme congestion as a plethora of cars, vans and trucks vie for extremely limited curbside parking. The coverage area may expand depending on the initial results, the city said. Smaller cargo bikes will be allowed to park on wider sidewalks, and all bikes can travel on the city’s bike lanes, according to the initiative, which was first reported in Wednesday’s editions of The New York Times.
UPS, which has rolled out cargo bikes in Seattle and is testing them in Portland, Oregon, said its model, which weighs about 750 pounds, can accommodate around 40 parcels per trip. The design of the New York bikes is similar to those being used in Seattle. The bikes are produced by Portland-based Silver Eagle and Bremen, Germany-based Rytle.
Different sources estimate 1.5 million to 2 million packages are delivered each day in the city’s five boroughs. Faced with an unexpected multi-year surge in e-commerce deliveries as well as the explosion in the number of vehicles driving for ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft, city officials are trying to strike a balance between safety concerns and commercial interests.