Assessing Public Health Benefits of Replacing Freight Trucks with Cargo Cycles in Last Leg Delivery Trips in Urban Centers

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Assessing Public Health Benefits of Replacing Freight Trucks with Cargo Cycles in Last Leg Delivery Trips in Urban Centers


Increased urbanization, population growth, and demand for time-sensitive deliveries means increased freight movement in cities, which contributes to emissions, noise, and safety concerns. One innovative mode gaining widespread attention for urban deliveries is cargo cycles—bicycles adapted for freight delivery. Despite the recognized potential and possible success of transporting at least 25% of freight via cycle, research remains limited. This research investigates the potential of cargo cycle delivery for last mile freight in Oakland, California, with a focus on the West Oakland neighborhood. The data collection included interviews, focus groups, vehicle field observation and counts, and traffic simulation modeling. 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. The best-case scenario—where the maximum percentage of deliveries were made with cargo cycle instead of motorized vehicles—resulted in reductions of 2600 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per day. In that case scenario, the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction is equivalent to a reduction in emissions of PM2.5, PM10, NOx, and reactive organic gas (ROG) 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. This potential reduction in air pollution and traffic congestion, as well as job creation, would benefit West Oakland residents.



Dr. Jennifer C. Hartle was the Principal Investigator of this research effort. She is an 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, Dr. Hartle is interested in developing concrete solutions and policies to reduce harmful environmental exposures. Her research focuses on using mixed methods, including interviews, surveys, and exposure modeling, to identify exposure sources; this data is used to inform preventive strategies. Dr. Hartle holds a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), a Master of Health Science (MHS) in Environmental Health Engineering, and a Certificate of Risk Sciences and Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a Certified Industrial Hygienist from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. Prior to joining the faculty at San José State, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Stanford University School of Medicine.


Dr. Ossama (Sam) A. Elrahman is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and Environment (CITE), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to academia, Dr. Elrahman served at New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in different positions/divisions, including Head of the Research Coordination and Technology Transfer group of the Transportation Research & Development Bureau. Dr. Elrahman’s recent research focuses on mainstreaming public health considerations into transportation planning, design, and implementation. Dr. Elrahman holds a PhD in Urban and Environmental Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), as well as an MSc in Transportation Planning and Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York, School of Engineering, New York University. He also holds a postgraduate certificate in Management Development from Cornell University.


Dr. Cara Wang’s research mainly focuses on the analysis of the interactions between land use, transport (both passenger and freight), energy and environment, and the spatial dependence of travel behavior. She has published over 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. She is recipient of the Pikarsky Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation and the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award. Dr. Wang is a member of AT015 (Freight Transportation Planning and Logistics) and Chair of the Freight Modeling Subcommittee. Dr. Wang has been PI and Co-PI of research projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and U.S. State Department of Transportation, among others. Dr. Wang earned her BS and MS degrees in civil engineering from Tsinghua University and her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. 


Dr. Daniel A. Rodriguez is Chancellors Professor of City and Regional Planning and Interim Director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His research examines the reciprocal relationship between mobility and land development, and the health and environmental consequences that follow. Working with colleagues in multiple disciplines, he has studied how changes to the physical attributes of urban environments—the location of rail lines, trails, and neighborhood land uses—are related to changes in individual behavior, health, and air quality. His work also examines how cities can encourage development that is healthier and affordable for all. He is committed to encouraging a north-south dialogue about innovative and sustainable active transportation and urban policies. Since 2017, Dr. Rodriguez’s distinguished publication record has earned him the recognition of being among the 25 most impactful planning scholars in North America. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust, among others. At Berkeley, he teaches courses in sustainable mobility, planning for active transportation, and transportation policy and planning. Prior to joining Berkeley, he served on the faculty of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he was Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Communities. Rodríguez received a Master’s in Science from MIT and a PhD from The University of Michigan in 2000. 


Yue Ding is a senior data scientist at Walmart Global Tech. She received her PhD degree in Transportation Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Yue is interested in using machine learning and deep learning models to understand transportation data and provide corresponding policy insights. Her PhD thesis focused on the prediction of freight flow between origins and destinations via a graph convolutional neural network-based hybrid model. 


Matt McGahan is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Health at San José State University, California. Matt is interested in public health advocacy and reducing environmental hazards in neglected communities. Matt is also receiving EMT training and hopes to use his background in public health to raise awareness of health disparities in the field of medicine.

June 2022
Air pollution
Traffic congestion
Traffic models
Cargo cycles
Noise pollution



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