Cargo e-bikes in Toronto and other Ontario cities reduce emissions and traffic

After approving small cargo e-bikes in 2020, Toronto last month joined a five-year Ontario pilot program that will see more (and bigger) commercial e-bikes replace vans and trucks, reducing congestion and traffic. pollution.

Last month, the City of Toronto approved a plan that allows the use of electric cargo bikes weighing more than 120 kilograms on public roads and bike paths.

In the spring, pending an agreement on the final details with several companies that make local deliveries, the city plans to test about 20 to 40 large cargo electric bikes in the city center. Large e-bikes, equipped with a box or platform to hold cargo, will be permitted to park in commercial cargo and delivery parking areas currently used by trucks and vans.

Nazzaereno Capano, director of transportation policy and innovation at the City of Toronto.

From the city’s perspective, the implementation of the major e-bike project will help Toronto meet sustainability goals related to its TransformTO Initiative to bring the city to net zero emissions by 2040.

“If you pull out a larger internal combustion engine truck or van doing deliveries with these e-bikes, that will reduce emissions,” says Nazzareno Capano, manager of transportation policy and innovation at the City of Toronto. in an interview. with Electric Range Canada.

There is also another potential gain in reducing congestion and congestion.

New provincial regulations

The new program is being launched in accordance with a new regulation for electric cargo bikes and a pilot program for municipalities introduced by the Ontario government early last year. The provincial pilot project, which lasts five years (ending in March 2026), requires that municipalities choose to join and change their bylaws to allow the use of any electric cargo bike weighing more than 55 kilograms on public roads, including bike paths and bike paths.

Toronto previously approved the use of cargo e-bikes weighing less than 120 kilograms in 2020, making it one of the first municipalities in Ontario to approve bylaw changes to allow for the expanded use of cargo e-bikes with pedals.

The city’s new rider will draw on its experience with small cargo electric bikes, which have helped businesses meet demand for local deliveries since the pandemic began.

The desire of some of these same private companies to use larger cargo e-bikes led them to lobby the province for the new rules. The city also played a supportive role in that lobbying, Capano says.

“The current regulations of the Highway Code did not allow [over 120 kg e-bikes] be on the road,” says Capano. “Over time, through discussions with the province, they saw there was a need for this.”

Transportation is the key to reducing emissions

Toronto is not the first city in Ontario to sign. Ottawa joined the pilot last September, when London The city council set out to gather public feedback on rolling out large e-bikes last summer, but has yet to make a decision on whether to join the program.

The appeal of cargo e-bikes in urban areas is obvious. Cities around the world are looking for ways to reduce transportation emissions to help them meet their climate action goals. In the municipal areas of Toronto and Hamilton, transportation accounts for 34% of total emissions.

Awareness of the potential of e-bikes to help fight emissions has grown in recent years, amplified by the growing demand for e-commerce deliveries over the same period. A report released by the City of Toronto last November found that between 2016 and 2020, e-commerce sales grew by more than 350% in Canada.

Since then, the pandemic has only increased the demand for online shopping, with online sales representing 5.9% of total retail sales in Canada in 2020, up 2.4% from 2019.

Larger bikes have greater potential

When drafting its new regulations, the province worked with municipalities to come up with a definition of what constitutes an electric cargo bike under the law.

According to Ontario’s definition, cargo e-bikes are electric bicycles with a maximum power of 1,000 watts and a speed of 32 kilometers per hour. They should have a platform or box that businesses can use as an alternative to delivery trucks, or that individuals can use to transport larger personal items.

E-bikes are not permitted to be used on major highways and also have a maximum length of four meters and a height of 2.2 meters.

“With everything the province is doing, they like to pilot things for a little while to just get a little extra learning,” Capano says. “We thought it was a great idea.”

In Toronto, while Capano says his use of smaller cargo e-bikes was a valuable first step, he also thinks the larger bikes – with wider storage capacity and increased flexibility – will help the city embrace use. widespread of this emerging zero emission. possibility of transportation.

Matthew Roorda, professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto.

“Some of the larger e-cargo bikes, if the box is in the back, can be lifted and loaded with new packages added,” Capano says. “So they’re a bit more flexible in terms of loading.”

Matthew Roorda, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto, agrees that the increased loading capacity of 120kg cargo e-bikes is an added advantage over smaller traditional e-bikes. He adds that there could be more safety features on a larger bike which could also help keep users safe on the road.

“From a rider safety perspective, some of these features can be retrofitted to heavier cargo bikes,” Roorda says. “Particularly if you want to have electric assist on the bike that weighs too.”

Private sector interest

Five companies, including Canada Post, DHL, Fedex, Purolator and PenguinPickUp, have expressed interest in participating in the Toronto cargo e-bike pilot project.

Brad Baker, vice president of operations for PenguinPickUp, said in an interview with Electric Range Canada that his company has three fully operational larger cargo e-bikes that could be deployed for the rider.

Brad Baker, Vice President of Operations at PenguinPickUp.

“You have a lot of capacity in terms of cube and weight,” says Baker. “You can literally back it up to a curb, roll [the container] in a store or warehouse.

In the best-case scenario, Toronto’s new plus-size e-bike pilot will do just as well as the one New York launched in 2019. It starts with 100 bikes operated by three companies – UPS, DHL and Amazon – and last year it had grown to 350 bikes.

In one report 2021New York estimated that each cargo e-bike that replaces a van or box truck saves seven tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions.

“We have a similar type of road network to New York,” says Capano, who sees that city’s program as a model for the Toronto pilot.

“We wanted to emulate some of the things that worked well in New York and Montreal.”

Lessons to be learned

It is expected that Ontario’s five-year pilot project will promote discussion and provide flexibility for necessary adjustments.

Although companies may eventually set up larger fleets, Capano believes that launching the pilot project with an overall fleet of 20 to 40 cargo e-bikes will help both the city and private companies assess which factors are working or not. .

Capano says accessibility to downtown parking is a factor he will monitor in the pilot.

“Some of the issues with them are where are they deployed from? Where do you store them overnight? Capano said. “These are other things they have to take care of, and can they partner with, for example, the Toronto Parking Authority to use their parking lots and charge for those things overnight?”

For PenguinPickUp, Baker hopes to grow his company’s e-bike fleet and make it easier for customers to choose e-bike deliveries. But for now, he’s excited to be one of the first to bring a zero-emissions delivery solution to Toronto.

“If you live in a small neighborhood and your kids play on the streets, I’d rather see an e-bike versus an e-truck,” Baker says.

“For us, playing on this, just as important for sustainability, makes our city a more livable place.”

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