Wider cargo e-bikes could be coming to NYC streets

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By Dan Sears

New Yorkers will need to make way for extra large cargo e-bikes under a new plan from the city.

A proposed Department of Transportation amendment to local laws would allow four-wheeled, four-foot-wide pedal-assist mini trucks that are about the same width as a golf cart.

The bikes will make the last mile of deliveries greener and more efficient, according to the transportation department. Use of delivery services like Amazon has skyrocketed since the pandemic,

“The freight industry sees cargo bicycles with pedal-assist as an opportunity to test consolidation and smaller-scale deliveries in constrained urban spaces, with the concomitant benefits of avoiding tickets and reducing negative impacts on traffic and street safety,” the agency wrote in the announcement released Monday.

Typical city bike lanes are 6 feet wide. Last month, cyclists told Gothamist that a recent crash on the Manhattan Bridge bike path highlighted the growing risk of an accident as bicycles, e-bikes and mopeds vie for space.

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If approved, the proposal would expand use of commercial cargo bikes, which first hit city streets in 2019 through a pilot program. DOT data shows that more than 5 million packages were delivered by cargo bikes last year. In April, the city announced the use of “microhubs” where trucks unload packages to e-bikes for the last leg of deliveries.

The transportation department touted its own electric, pedal-assist, four-wheeled cargo bike named “Cargi B” in May. The bike, which has a windshield, looks like a small van with pedals.

Just two of the cargo e-bikes can replace one traditional delivery truck. The agency said that’s the equivalent of eliminating 30,872 passenger car miles traveled.

Current city rules do not allow cargo bikes larger than 36 inches wide. They must also have fewer than four wheels.

Legislative efforts to allow wider cargo e-bikes have failed in Albany. The proposed rule would only apply to New York City, bypassing Albany.

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The announcement of the proposal kicks off a 30-day window for public comment before a virtual public hearing, which is scheduled for September 13 at 10 a.m.

“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,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a release.

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