San Francisco E- Bike Delivery Pilot Program Cycles into Action to Reduce Emissions and Ease Traffic Congestion

San Francisco’s Environment Department readies launch of second cohort of e-bike delivery participants making emissions free deliveries


San Francisco, CA – Today, the San Francisco Environment Department (SFE) announced the launch of the second cohort of the City’s new electric bikes (e-bikes) delivery pilot program to reduce emissions and traffic congestion. The program, led by SFE, is intended to support mode shift by studying and observing the benefits of transitioning deliveries away from cars to more sustainable forms of transportation, like e-bikes. The innovative program is funded by a $2.4 million grant SFE received from the California Energy Commission and is divided into two cohorts over the one-year program.

“Our e-bike delivery pilot program is a key part of reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions in our City," said Supervisor Preston. "The pilot’s success to date and its expansion show that we can shift deliveries from cars to e-bikes. I appreciate the work of San Francisco Environment and LAFCo and look forward to continuing to expand these important efforts to shift deliveries to more sustainable modes of transportation.”

The one-year pilot program will provide up to 30 San Francisco food delivery workers with e-bikes to use for making deliveries. The program will monitor the impact e-bikes have on delivery efficiency and worker revenue while assessing bike safety. SFE will also use the program’s metrics to understand the potential impact that e-bike delivery has to lessen traffic congestion and reduce transportation-related emissions. Ultimately, the program’s findings could help make the economic and environmental case to shift food deliveries away from cars in favor of e-bikes. The program is divided into two cohorts with each cohort consisting of 15 e-bike riders and 15 drivers as the control group. The first cohort concluded its testing this month.

"This pilot program will help support our workers who want to transition from driving, but can't afford an e-bike," said Supervisor Chan. "I hope to see more programs that ensure our workers can afford the move to more sustainable modes of transportation."

Participants were chosen from a pool of applicants that applied this spring. They had to commit to delivering at least an average of 20 hours a week from mobile food ordering platforms such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, or Door Dash. Program participants received bike helmets, bike locks, bike bags, and training on how to safely use e-bikes. In return, participants will take surveys and participate in data collection to help the city understand their experience with e-bike deliveries. They will also get to keep their assigned e-bike and accessories including a helmet, lock, and food delivery bag at the conclusion of the program.

The data will be collected and analyzed to compare outcomes for the e-bike riders’ cohort versus the car-based delivery workers control group. SFE will assess metrics like: earnings, trip origins and destinations, trip route including miles and duration, and total work time comparing active versus inactive miles. While data collection is ongoing, it will be compiled and then assessed once the second cohort has concluded early next year.

“Pilot programs like this are innovative ways to test new ideas that could lead to important change in how we operate a more sustainable food delivery economy,” said San Francisco Environment Department Director Tyrone Jue. “We’re hopeful this pilot program and the data collected can spur an industry-wide transition away from car-based deliveries in favor of climate-friendly, e-bike based deliveries.” 

Over 40% of San Francisco’s carbon emissions come from fossil fuel vehicle operations. This program will provide crucial data on the feasibility of mode shift for transportation needs like delivery and logistics. As a transit-first City, and with a goal of achieving 80% of trips through low carbon modes of transportation, biking, walking, and mass transit are essential strategies within the City’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions. Specifically, bikes and e-bikes are potentially game-changing modes of transportation that can improve air quality throughout the City, while reducing congestion and helping the City reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

“When I was delivering with a car, it only made sense for me to work at night because of issues with traffic and parking. I switched to using a fixed gear bike because driving in the city was so difficult,” said Salvador Martinez, a second cohort participant. “This program is a blessing for me and I’m excited to be a part of it. An e-bike is the perfect middle ground for this work. I can take more orders, go further, and exercise."

SFE has partnered with GRID Alternatives, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Driver's Seat to support and administer the program. The e-bike delivery pilot program’s first cohort launched in the summer of 2023 and ran through September 2023. The second cohort has just begun and will run through January 2024. This program was inspired by the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission's (LAFCo) Emerging Mobility Labor Study. SFE presented some of its first findings from the program at LAFCo in September.


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