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City talks bringing e-cargo bikes to Ottawa streets in new pilot project

The program will be discussed at Wednesday's transportation committee meeting.
20210828_e-cargo bike
Photo/City of Ottawa

E-scooters may not be the only e-vehicle residents see on Ottawa streets soon, as the city looks to implement a new e-vehicle pilot project — this time for e-cargo bikes.

In the upcoming transportation committee meeting on Wednesday, staff say they’ll start with a fleet of 25 commercial e-cargo bikes in the downtown core within the first two years of the five-year provincial pilot program.

Additional e-cargo bikes could be placed in other areas of Ottawa, strategically in business communities.

“Over the past few years, interest in cargo power-assisted bicycles (e-cargo bikes) has grown as a viable alternative means in the package delivery service area,” the report outlines. “When used in a last-mile capacity, delivery companies are capable of using e-cargo bikes as an effective replacement for delivery trucks.”

And using the bikes could also eventually enable families to transport children around the city and be used by tourists.

The new pilot is all in an effort by the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ottawa by offering new modes of transportation that are considered cleaner for the environment.

One e-cargo bike, the city says, has been found to be capable of replacing one standard delivery truck and can service an area within a three to five kilometre radius.

The replacement of one delivery truck with an e-cargo tricycle can prevent the release of upwards of 1.9 metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

These vehicles, the document adds, could also open up possibilities for other clean transportation options like e-pedicab/e-rickshaw vehicles, all of which offer an additional mobility option for residents and tourists.

To allow Ottawa to participate in the new provincial pilot program, staff members are recommending implementing a new e-cargo bike by-law, which will segment the bikes into personal and commercial vehicles.

This includes framework around commercial uses and fees, parking fees, parking abilities, use of roadways and more.

(The new vehicles will be allowed to operate on roadways, in on-street bike lanes, cycle tracks and separated bike lanes.)

“E-cargo bikes are capable of providing an effective replacement for delivery trucks in urban areas,” the report says. “Globally, companies are investigating and implementing their use to improve operational efficiency and support efforts in “greening” their fleets.”

New operational concepts for delivery services, in particular, have been piloted in Europe, New York, Montreal (launched in September 2019), Toronto (launched in November 2020) and Vancouver (launched in April 2020).

A public survey on Engage Ottawa held from June 25 to July 15 received 835 responses and over 91 per cent of respondents said they support the use of both personal and commercial e-cargo bikes.

Consultations and a follow-up survey will also be held in the future to get feedback and ideas from the public.

As of now, there is no indication of the start date for the pilot project.

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