All across the globe, electric bicycles are reshaping mobility. Various urban cities in some of the most densely populated countries in the world have been strongly encouraging e-mobility adoption with attractive perks and incentives for adopters. New York City has long been a proponent for active micromobility, and we could soon see this go well beyond the private sector.
As it would turn out, apart from being effective personal mobility alternatives, e-bikes also have a lot to offer when it comes to the last-mile delivery sector. In fact, a report by Electrek suggests that New York City has big plans when it comes to leveraging cargo e-bikes when it comes to last-mile delivery. Being one of the busiest cities in the entire world, countless deliveries – be it parcels, food, or other goods – are made every single day. Up until now, a lot of delivery companies have been relying on vans to transport their wares. This could soon change, as New York urges deliveries to be completed via e-bike.
The e-bikes in question here aren’t just any old e-bikes, either. They’re actually more like pedal-powered cars, as they have four wheels and occupy about the same footprint as a Mini Cooper from the 1960s. We’ve talked about some of them before, and just how practical they are. Nevertheless, despite being tiny, these four-wheeled e-bikes are designed to optimize the space they have. They’re usually made up of a large rear cargo box atop a platform. Sometimes, these bikes feature canopies which shield the rider from the elements.
When it comes to propulsion, these four-wheeled cargo bikes are equipped with pedals, and make use of similar pedal-assist systems as those of regular e-bikes. As such, it can be argued that they should be classified as electric bicycles. That being said, current e-bike regulations in the US mandate that e-bikes must have two or three wheels at most. However, should the New York Department of Transportation get its way, four-wheeled cargo bikes could soon be classified as e-bikes, too, meaning they’ll be allowed to go wherever regular bikes can.
In the Electrek article, New York mayor Eric Adams explained, “Safety and sustainability go hand in hand in New York City, and our administration is innovating every day and using every tool available to advance both. Cargo bikes have been a valuable tool in our administration’s efforts to move goods throughout the city while prioritizing street safety and our environment, and these pedal-assist cargo bikes will help New Yorkers get the items they need while reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion — and getting dangerous trucks off our streets.”
With that being said, the New York DOT will have to first update its laws, as these electric cargo bikes are way too big to be classified as e-bikes. At present, NYC’s bike lanes are limited for use to e-bikes no larger than 36 inches in width – naturally, cargo bikes carrying parcels and food will be wider than this. As such, the proposal includes increasing the size limit to 48 inches, and the number of wheels from three to four. The proposal is still ongoing revisions, with a public comment period currently open. After which, NYC’s DOT will hold a public hearing regarding the proposal on September 13, 2023.