Last Mile Freight by Bike: Good for Cost, Health, & the Environment

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MTI researchers analyze potential emissions reductions and health benefits of using cargo cycles in urban last leg delivery trips
June 23, 2022
San José, CA

SAN JOSÉ, CA – June 23, 2022 – ​​Increased urbanization, population growth, and demand for time-sensitive deliveries means increased freight movement in cities, which contributes to emissions, noise, and safety concerns. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Assessing Public Health Benefits of Replacing Freight Trucks with Cargo Cycles in Last Leg Delivery Trips in Urban Centers, investigates the potential of cargo cycle delivery—bicycles adapted for freight delivery—to reduce emissions when it comes to last mile freight in Oakland, California, with a focus on the West Oakland neighborhood.

The data collection for this research included both qualitative and quantitative measures–such as interviews, focus groups, and field observations. Interviewees included employees of government agencies, local nonprofits, businesses, residents, truck drivers and a mobile air pollution monitoring expert. Focus group participants included local business owners, delivery persons, bicycle, transit, environmental advocates, and residents.

The traffic simulation examined scenarios where businesses converted different percentages of current deliveries to cargo cycles using a transfer hub as the starting point for their cargo cycle delivery.

Results revealed that:

●      The best-case scenario—where the maximum percentage of deliveries were made with cargo cycles instead of motorized vehicles—resulted in reductions of 2600 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per day, the equivalent of taking about 1000 Class 4 box trucks off the roads of West Oakland per day.

●      In the worst-case scenario, with a significantly smaller percentage of motorized package deliveries converted to cargo cycles, there is a reduction of 160 VMT, equivalent to the removal of approximately 80 Class 4 box trucks off the roads of West Oakland per day.

“Evidence suggests that cargo cycles can be integrated into last mile deliveries and are often a cost-efficient strategy. By replacing truck miles–cargo cycles can also reduce air pollution,” explains the study’s author.

Integrating cargo cycle delivery options into overall transportation strategic and land use plans can positively impact emission reductions–a critical step in the fight against global climate change–and concomitantly benefit public health.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Jennifer C. Hartle is an MTI Research Associate and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Recreation at San José State University in San José, California. Trained as an environmental health engineer, she is interested in developing concrete solutions and policies to reduce harmful environmental exposures. Her research focuses on mixed-methods, including interviews, surveys, and exposure modeling, to identify exposure sources; this data being used to inform preventive strategies.

Media Contact:

Dr. Hilary Nixon
MTI Deputy Executive Director
O: 408-924-7564

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