The classic UPS truck is an icon, recognized around the world as the distinctive brown box delivering your ‘pakidge’ to your door. It’s so iconic, in fact, that you can’t even buy one secondhand. But online ordering enthusiasts in New York City may soon be greeted by something new bearing that familiar shield logo — something smaller.
We’ve talked about UPS’s “eQuad” delivery vehicles before, but now the bike-cart-van-things are finally seeing use in an actual delivery environment: New York City. At first glance, clearing the streets of enormous pollutant-spewing step vans appears to be an incredible benefit — but are things as rosy as they seem?
The eQuad is, environmentally, certainly a major step past the old UPS vans. It’s powered by human legs with battery assistance, a combination that’s far more green than an internal-combustion-powered truck, and its compact footprint means it’s likely to do less damage to our already-crumbling roads. So far, so good.
But where some problems are solved, others appear. Between the pedal power, the driver’s UPS-branded helmet, and the nebulous “quadracycle” definition, the eQuad seems like it’s aiming to be legally classified as a bicycle. That gives it access to city bike lanes, where it takes up much more space than a typical bicycle, leaving less room for the kinds of vehicles for which the lane was made. Add in the fact that UPS drivers in these eQuads are forced to pedal for the duration of their route, in an open vehicle sitting above hot summer asphalt, and it seems like project may not have considered its impact on people.
Whether the good outweighs the bad, and the improvements to traffic and delivery times win out over the human toll, remains to be seen. The eQuad is currently in a test program at UPS, so we’ll likely find out soon enough.