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UPS to Test E-Bike Deliveries (Alas, in Seattle)

Get ready for UPS in the bike lane — in a good way, finally. The global shipping company is testing out special e-bike cargo delivery in downtown Seattle and near the Pike Place Market.

The pilot program will use a specially made detachable trailer that can hold up to 400 pounds, using a bike that will powered by both pedals and electricity.

In a news release, the company said it is pursuing the experiment for both for sustainability and business reasons. Bike delivery is aimed at helping achieve climate goals and also reducing "dwell time" — idling in traffic — a nod to the efficiency of bike lanes, especially in crowded urban areas.

"It’s exciting to return to our roots – UPS started in Seattle in 1907 as a bicycle messenger company," Scott Phillippi, UPS’s senior director of maintenance and engineering, international operations said in the statement.

The University of Washington and UPS will study the pilot to determine if it is worth continuing and expanding to other neighborhoods.

Cargo delivery by e-bike is common in Europe, but still pretty novel in the United States. However, in the last two years UPS has also operated e-bike delivery service in Portland and Pittsburgh, where it is still operational. Expansion to a new city suggests that the company's early experiments in the U.S. have been encouraging.

Moving from vans to e-bikes could help UPS be more bike friendly in one key way. The company is notorious for parking its vans in bike lanes in New York, Denver and around the country. In 2015, a New York City cyclist named Alex Bell sued the company to try to "annoy" it into compliance with the laws, but it remains a problem.

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