UPS launching cargo eBikes

The United Parcel Service chose Seattle to launch its cargo electrically assisted bikes and modular package delivery trailers.

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UPS leaders announced the pilot program Thursday morning in Seattle, where the company started as a bike message delivery system in 1907.

“How can we reduce congestion in the inner cities?” said Scott Phillippi, senior director of maintenance and engineering at UPS.

A UPS truck will drop off a trailer carrying four containers that can each hold up to 400 pounds. The eBikes then hitch up an individual container and make deliveries.

Once the container is empty, the driver will come back to the trailer to swap out for another container. Phillippi said the downtown Pike Place Market is a perfect urban space to test and study how to best use the eBikes.

“Right now, we have to walk packages through that area,” he said. “So this will give us the ability to be more mobile than the big truck.”

The cargo eBikes will also be used throughout much of downtown. UPS worked with the city of Seattle and the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab on this pilot program.

“The Urban Freight Lab really believes in trying new things and evaluating those and testing them on the street and learning from that,” UW Freight Lab Director Anne Goodchild said. “So, we're really excited to try something new and to innovate and learn from that.”

UPS uses electrically assisted bikes in Europe, but this is a first in the U.S. KIRO-TV asked how they'll make sure the bikes mesh with Seattle bike lanes and on sidewalks.

“Our intent here is to really be part of a solution,” Phillippi said. “And we are very cognizant of blending and working into the community with pedestrians and cyclists. And we're going to take that feedback and evolve from there.”

The UW Urban Freight Lab will study the impact on emissions, traffic and parking. UPS will use what it learns in Seattle to launch eBikes in other cities.

Testing will begin Monday, Nov. 5.

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