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New York City delivery trucks may be replaced by pedal-assisted cargo bikes

Team EVELO | Pexels

The New York City Department of Transportation plans to allow companies to use pedal-assisted cargo bikes in lieu of semi-trucks to reduce pollution levels and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. 

An ongoing 30-day public hearing began on Aug. 14 to solicit feedback from New Yorkers about the proposition soon to be launched in the coming months.

As of writing, the maximum width of a cargo bike is 36 inches without a fourth wheel. The new proposal would allow pedal-assist bicycles to be up to 48 inches wide and have four wheels built in as needed. These additional features would make it a lot easier to pedal when carrying heavy loads.      

The current cargo bike width restrictions and the absence of protected bike lanes that are wide enough for cargo bike usage are the main reasons why these pedal-assisted cargo bicycles have yet to be implemented at a greater magnitude. 

A small motor is attached to the pedal-assisted bikes and is activated when users are pedaling. This technology can be seen all throughout New York City with Citi Bike’s existing pedal-assisted and e-bicycle carriers. 

Home deliveries in the city are on the rise along with traffic congestion and carbon emissions. 

“80% of New Yorkers get a delivery a week,” NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said

This newly envisioned rule would promote a cleaner environment and strive toward having fewer trucks on the road while still accommodating growing e-commerce within the city. 

“Just two cargo bikes can replace one box truck, increasing safety and reducing CO2 emission by 14 tons per year—equivalent to 30,872 passenger car miles traveled,” Rodriguez said

The concept was attempted previously through a pilot program named Commercial Cargo Bike that ran in 2019. Enrolled carriers were allowed to load and unload packages anywhere commercial vehicles could. 

Since then, cargo bike deliveries have increased dramatically across the city, and the changes in regard to human interaction with the environment are just as perceptible. 

The Commercial Cargo Bike program led to over 130,000 carrier trips, delivering five million packages. This program is estimated to have “saved over 650,000 metric tons of C02 emissions.”

The pedal-assisted cargo bike proposal would demonstrate demand that has not been responded to adequately when it comes to cargo bikes in the freight industry. 

Introducing wider lanes and more built-in assistance would create safer and more sustainable trips across all facets. The transportation sector is still one of the greatest carbon emitters, accounting for over 4.5 million tons of carbon emissions.

“[Pedal-assisted cargo bikes are] easier to navigate on narrow streets, take up far less space at the curb, emit no air pollution, and sit silently — no idling engine noises — while workers deliver packages right to doors,” Open Plans Co-Executive Director Sara Lind said

The NYC DOT invites New Yorkers to comment on the proposal through its website or email.

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