New York City Offers Free Parking to Delivery Firms’ Cargo Bikes

Pilot program aims to curb Manhattan congestion by encouraging Amazon, UPS and DHL to switch from vans to cycles

Cargo bikes operated by freight companies will be given free access to commercial loading spaces in New York City in a bid to reduce congestion.

City officials said Wednesday about 100 special bikes operated by Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and Deutsche Post AG ’s DHL business would participate in the six-month pilot program in Manhattan’s central business district south of 60th Street.

Polly Trottenberg, New York City’s transportation commissioner, said at a press conference Wednesday that the program would reduce traffic and improve air quality and street safety. Trucks have been involved in 13 of 27 fatal collisions with cyclists this year, Ms. Trottenberg noted.

If the program is successful, she said, it could be expanded to other parts of the city.

Congestion is a growing problem on New York streets. Average weekday travel speeds in Midtown Manhattan fell to 4.3 mph last year from 6.1 mph in 2010, according to a recent city report.

The cargo bikes being used in the New York program are powered by an electric motor that kicks in when a rider starts pedaling. They come in various heights and lengths.

Amazon said it would deploy about 90 bikes in the pilot program for grocery deliveries from its Whole Foods stores. The company began using the bikes in February in Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but it hasn’t been able to use commercial loading zones for free.

A DHL official said the company would begin with three bikes with a view to expanding to eight bikes. UPS said it would deploy two bikes.

Delivery companies said their experience deploying cargo bikes in Europe and in other U.S. cities such as Seattle showed that each cycle takes at least one delivery van off the road. DHL says that its bike can carry about 350 lbs of packages.

Streetside commercial parking rates in New York range from $5.00 to $8.00 an hour, depending on the location and duration. The bikes will have free access to those spaces, and the city will also allow bikes of a limited size to park on the sidewalk.

Commercial deliveries are among a number of factors that have contributed to congestion.

During the past five years, the city has been choked by an influx of about 80,000 ride-hailing vehicles. Over roughly the same period, truck traffic at tolled crossings into and around New York City has increased by 9.4%, according to city data.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson welcomed the cargo-bike program on Wednesday. In a statement, he said the rise in deliveries to about one million freight trips a day has caused chaos on city streets.

Christian Fama, director of client services at Empire Commercial Services, a fleet-management company in Staten Island, said he doesn’t oppose the program. But he wondered whether it could increase congestion by forcing trucks and vans to double-park or circle the block while waiting for a bike to move. He also expressed concern that the bikes, which will be limited to 12 mph, could slow traffic if they use vehicle lanes.

City officials invited other firms to join the program. They said the transportation department would collect data, including speeds, parking and use of bicycle lanes, to determine whether to change rules as the program progresses.

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Veröffentlicht: Paul Berger, The Wall Street Journal am 04.12.2019