Research: exploring benefits of cargo bikes versus trucks for urban parcel deliveries

Urban deliveries are traditionally carried out with vans or trucks. These vehicles tend to face parking difficulties in dense urban areas, leading to traffic congestion. Smaller and nimbler vehicles by design, such as cargo-cycles, struggle to compete in distance range and carrying capacity. However, a system of cargo-cycles complemented with strategically located cargo-storing hubs can overcome some limitations of the cargo bikes.

Past research provides a limited perspective on how demand characteristics and parking conditions in urban areas are related to the potential benefits of this system. To fill this gap, we propose a model to simulate the performance of different operational scenarios—a truck-only scenario and a cargo bike with mobile hubs scenario—under different delivery demand and parking conditions.

In a paper researchers apply the model to a case study using data synthesized from observed freight-carrier demand in Singapore. The exploration of alternative demand scenarios informs how demand characteristics influence the viability of the solution. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis clarifies the contributing factors to the demonstrated results.

The combination of cargo-cycles and hubs can achieve progressive reductions in kilometers-traveled and hours-traveled up to around densities of 150 deliveries/km², beyond which savings taper off. Whereas the reduction in kilometers-traveled is influenced by the carrying capacity of the cargo bike the reduction in hours-traveled is related to the cargo bike’s ability to effectively decrease the parking dwell time by reducing, for instance, the time spent searching for parking and the time spent walking to a delivery destination.

Source: Dalla Chiara, G., Alho, A. R., Cheng, C., Ben-Akiva, M., & Cheah, L. (2020). Exploring Benefits of Cargo-Cycles versus Trucks for Urban Parcel Delivery under Different Demand Scenarios. Transportation Research Record, 0361198120917162.

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