Dec 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Urban vehicle of the moment: An e-cargo bike

A worker in Madison, Wis., rides an e-cargo bike. Photo: Saris Infrastructure

Electric cargo bikes — which come in all shapes and sizes — are silent and emissions-free alternatives to Bobcats and light trucks, and they're increasingly used in cities for deliveries and municipal improvements.

Why it matters: If you've ever been bothered by the "beep-beep-beep" of a vehicle as it backs up, you'll be grateful to see these sporty little newcomers at work at highway medians and building delivery entrances.

Driving the news: Following a successful pilot in Madison, Wisconsin, the city of Portland, Oregon, will be testing motorized, pedal-assisted e-cargo bikes for municipal landscaping and other projects.

  • The bikes haul equipment and yard waste, etc., and can get into tight places that trucks can't.
  • In Madison, the parks department used them for everything from planting seeds to removing graffiti.
  • "They're fun and they're exciting, and they make people happy," says Patricia Kapinos of Saris Infrastructure, which is supplying the pilot vehicles (at no charge) to Portland and Madison. "You get a lot of comments when you ride them."

Details: Florists, pizza places and supermarkets like Whole Foods have started using e-cargo bikes for short, local deliveries.

  • To beat back car traffic, New York City has been giving free use of commercial parking spaces to cargo bikes owned by Amazon, UPS and DHL.
  • DHL's "Cubicycle" has a reclining seat and solar panels.
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