Cargo trikes nudge delivery trucks in Cambridge, Mass.
A Cambridge, Mass., delivery company is using industrial tricycles to deliver goods in efforts to curb global emissions.
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As utopian as that might sound, there are a few tentative signs that Brown might be onto something. High gasoline prices and rising concerns over climate change do seem to be opening the door to interest in cycling to work – and just perhaps, a new way of delivering many goods in crowded urban settings.Skip to next paragraph
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Signs include rising numbers of bike commuters, especially in places like Portland, Ore; Boston; Boulder, Colo.; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C., says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group based in Washington.
"Gas prices are making people think twice about how they get around," he says. "What NAP is doing is in the vanguard of this movement. Even if it isn't common yet, it's definitely coming. It just makes good sense."
Perhaps so, but even Brown admits there is "a huge cultural hurdle" to overcome in the land of the pickup truck.
"People do laugh," he says. "They can't understand how a bicycle can possibly function in a way commensurate with an automobile, much less a light truck."
But there are signs some do get it. Pedal Express in Berkeley, Calif., and Revolution Rickshaws in New York City are two companies specializing in bicycle-based delivery and pedicab operations that will also deliver heavy loads by cargo cycle. Greg Zukowski, president of Revolution, sells cycle vans from Cycles Maximus, including five sold to Brown for around $12,000 each.
"We're mainly a courier messenger service that uses these trikes," Mr. Zukowski says. "But [cargo delivery] is something we're doing more of every day."
There's also been a surprising, if somewhat elusive, endorsement of the cargo-cycle concept by a big industry player: United Parcel Service. UPS tested the cargo-cycle concept over the 2007 Christmas holidays in several Vermont communities with bicycles pulling small trailers, according to Seven Days, a weekly based in Burlington.
Just how much UPS likes the idea isn't something the company is talking about right now, however. "It's something I've been told is not public at this time," says Heather Robinson, a UPS spokesperson.
Brown admits NAP isn't making money just yet. Both he and Ms. Jane, the company general manager, are still working to get the word out. Yet for a half-dozen companies like Taza Chocolate, Brown's concept of cycle-based delivery for their "fair trade" chocolate matters a lot.
"We believe our customers are quite interested in lowering their carbon footprint," says Alex Whitmore, a Taza co-founder. "We think NAP's approach to delivery does that for us, which is pretty sweet."