Multi-criteria assessment framework for the potential of cargo bike operations

Making deliveries in crowded urban areas can be challenging for commercial vehicles, producing additional negative externalities. In recent years, cargo cycles, including bicycles and tricycles, either man-powered or electric-powered, have been considered a promising alternative for making last-leg delivery. Although cargo cycles have various benefits, the operations are still limited by the nature of the vehicle itself. However, research on this delivery mode is lacking.

New research proposes a multi-criteria assessment framework to evaluate the potential index of implementing cargo cycles, using New York City (NYC) as an example. The framework integrates consideration of both the supply and the demand sides. Cargo cycle network density, linkage ratio, circuitry, and topography are all considered.

The paper also redefines accessibility and incorporates land-use patterns and freight demand factors into the assessment for the first time. A multi-criteria ranking process is developed to derive road network potential by considering all dimensions of measurements. The results from this work show the ideal places for cargo cycle operations and can be used to guide the planning of cargo cycle system implementation, promoting sustainable freight transportation in metropolitan areas.

Although demonstrated using NYC Manhattan data, this framework is designed to apply to all cities or areas. The results may differ due to the cycling cultures, road structure, and land-use patterns. However, the framework is flexible, comprehensive, and easy to apply.

In future studies, sidewalk indicators can be developed to integrate bike-ability (for freight bicycles and tricycles) and walkability (for handcarts) analysis. The framework developed in this research will serve as a powerful tool for cargo cycle infrastructure planning and system operations. Especially given the foreseeable rise of on-demand freight in the post-pandemic era, the methodology and findings from this work will help transportation planners and policymakers better manage the urban freight system, further improving its efficiency and reducing its externalities.

Source: Ding, Y., Wang, X., Pérez-Guzmán, S., Wojtowicz, J., & Conway, A. (2023). Multi-criteria assessment and ranking framework for the potential of cargo cycle operation: Using New York City as an example. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 179, 103898.

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