Toronto mayor John Tory and UPS Canada President Christopher Atz held a press conference on October 23, 2017, at Nathan Philips Square to introduce a new pilot project in Toronto for cargo bike delivery services.
The pilot will be conducted with only one bike, for now, at York University’s main campus and the immediate surrounding area. Service will launch about two weeks.
For now, UPS plans to use these 1.2 metre wide, 217 kg vehicles solely as human-powered bikes, without electric-assist motors. Current provincial legislation regulating e-bikes doesn't allow for bikes heavier than 120 kg, or ones that use motors larger than a 500 watt capacity according to UPS's media representative Steve Vitale.
Once the initial testing is completed, Mayor Tory hopes that the bikes will be deployed in the downtown core, to relieve congestion. Tory also mentioned that although this is a first for Toronto, it is behind other cities using this technology.
These vehicles due to their size and weight, will not be allowed in the City's bike infrastructure. Bike lane use is governed by municipalities and differs city to city in the province. In terms of parking, Mayor Tory mentioned that Toronto has created side-street parking for deliveries off main arterial roads and he hopes these vehicles will use them. He stated that their size should make it easier for them to find a place to park.
A recent Penbura Institute study written by Nithya Vijayakumar refers to this mode of delivery as “cyclelogistics.” The study notes that there are already at least five companies in Toronto using the cyclelogistics model. It is hoped that a major player such as UPS will make this delivery mode mainstream in Toronto.
This USA-made vehicle is rather large. It is 1.2 metres wide by 2.8 metres long by 2.2 metres high. Its basic weight is 217 kg, but with cargo and driver it weights 408 kg. With the electric-motor assist system it will weight half a tonne (over 500 kg).
It can carry approximately 50 packages in its 2.2 cargo hold. It has safety features such as lighted turn signals, high-powered LED running lights, side markers, hazard lights and a lockable rear door that only opens 90 degrees (will not affect traffic’s view behind seeing hazard/running lights).
The bike also features a solar panel at the top of the cargo bay. This 85 watt, 24 volt panel will help charge 12 volt battery that runs the lights and other electronics on the bike.
When it finally gets approval for the electric assist, it will utilize two 500 watt motors. One is high-torque for use at low speeds. The other is for when high speeds are necessary or for when it runs without aid of human propulsion.
With E-assist, it is expected that the bike can attain average speeds of between 17 to 20 km/h when carrying a full load. The range is expected to be within 55 to 95 kilometres depending on how much human assist is used, weight and terrain.
One other feature of the electric-assist version is its anti-theft technology. Drivers will carry an electronic tether—some kind of near-field radio-based dongle—that must be present for the motor to operate. So, when a driver is out delivering a parcel or accidentally falls off the bike, the motor will shut down.
UPS first started experimenting with cargo bikes as part of their European cyclelogistics experiment in Hamburg, Germany in 2012. Other companies, notably DHL, use smaller vehicles that also use containers rather than a fixed cargo bay.
Opening up the provincial legislation regarding E-bikes might also be the time to change regulations to create distinctions between E-bike types and establish two categories of power-assisted bicycles—those that resemble conventional bicycles and those that resemble motor scooters. The City of Toronto, in a February 19, 2014, motion, asked the province to look into creating those distinctions. This would be in addition to making a third category dealing specifically with cargo delivery E-bikes.
Considering how the current laws regulating E-bikes are confusing at best, and many them left to the responsibility of municipalities, it might be time to consolidate them provincially as well. This legislation likely won't happen until after the next provincial election, slated for June 2018.
With this pilot project starting in about two weeks, UPS’s president hopes it will lead to more environmentally friendly cargo delivery in Toronto, and be used as a model for the rest of Canada. Time will tell.