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Trending: Brands Look to Bicycles to Decarbonize Urban Logistics

Image credit: FlexiModal

While discussion around the future of urban mobility largely focuses on electric vehicles and public transportation, buzz is growing around the role of bikes in driving down emissions in cities.

Congested city streets pose considerable challenges for delivery trucks, a problem that French startup FlexiModal endeavors to solve with its BicyLift bicycle trailer. The emissions-free logistics solution allows the operator to move Euro pallets (120 x 80 cm) by bicycle and by hand in areas where circulation of traditional delivery vehicles is limited. The trailer weighs 55 lbs. and has a carrying capacity of around 400 lbs.

Equipped with a three-position drawbar, the BicyLift is meant to be versatile and easily maneuverable. In addition to being pulled behind a bike (where it’s brakes work in conjunction with the bicycle’s), BicyLift can be operated by hand or parked. Beyond transporting a packaged load, the trailer can also be used to lift pallets. A two-wheel design makes the trailer easier to move around than the standard pallet jacket, particularly in the “crannies of urban centres, to deliver merchandise right to the desired delivery point, out on the roads or right inside shopping centres.”

The transport solution is already being employed by several French companies and has even been adopted by Breakaway Courier in New York City.


Meanwhile, in a bid to drive down emissions as well as traffic, noise and air pollution in cities, UPS has rolled out two new cycling solutions in London and Pittsburgh. The initiatives support the company’s new science-based target to reduce CO2 emissions by 12 percent by 2025.

During November and December, the delivery company is testing a power-assisted bike trailer for deliveries in and around the London borough of Camden. The Low Impact City Logistics project will see packages loaded onto payload boxes at a depot in London and delivered by a single trailer to a central hub, where they are distributed via power-assisted trailers. The packages are then delivered to homes and businesses by bicycle or foot.

The trailer uses a net-neutral technology that allows the rider to carry higher loads over longer distances than would otherwise be possible. The weight of the parcels — up to 200kg — isn’t felt by the handler.

“Low Impact City Logistics is a collaborative project that could revolutionize the way we deliver packages in our cities,” said Peter Harris, Director of Sustainability for UPS Europe. “UPS has a long history of developing, deploying and promoting the use of more sustainable technology and delivery methods — and this collaboration will facilitate a one-of-a-kind urban delivery solution.”

The Low Impact City Logistics project is part of a £10 million investment by Innovate UK in a range of collaborative research and development projects that improve the efficiency and experience of the end-to-end journey for people and freight.

In Pittsburgh, UPS is launching an electrically-assisted tricycle as part of its Cycle Solutions and Rolling Laboratory, which tests alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. The eBike is equipped with battery-powered electric motors that makes it possible to cover longer distances than traditional bikes, carry substantial loads and navigate hills and other terrain. It can be operated solely on battery power or pedal power. UPS intends to operate the eBike in Pittsburgh’s downtown area as weather permits on a regular route year-round.

Working with cities like Pittsburgh to provide them with a delivery solution that helps reduce congestion and emissions and improve air and noise quality is the latest example of how to meet the needs of today’s cities,” said Barb Jaram, Mid Atlantic District President for UPS. “We have many vehicle options when it comes to reducing our impact on the environment including our cycle solutions that provide greater mobility and fewer emissions.”

The success of the eBike was first demonstrated in Hamburg, Germany in 2012, where UPS focused on developing a new and sustainable method of delivering goods to urban areas. UPS placed four containers at central locations in the city for interim storage of packages for UPS drivers. From these points, deliveries were made on foot or with specialized electronically-assisted cargo tricycles that ease traffic congestion and reduce emissions. Due to the success of the pilot, the Hamburg program has been extended. That model serves as the prototype for the eBike in Pittsburgh.


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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