Jan 7, 2024

San Francisco Expands eBike Food Delivery Initiative with $600,000 of New Federal Funding

San Francisco is expanding its e-bike delivery pilot. Cities continue to experiment with a carrots and sticks approach.

release by the San Francisco Environment Department

December 28, 2023 - (San Francisco, CA) Mayor London N. Breed and the San Francisco Environment Department (SFE) announced in early December that San Francisco has been awarded a $600,000 federal grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to expand the City’s existing E-Bike Delivery Pilot program by more than doubling the number of participants and expanding greener food delivery modes of transportation.  

Building on a $2.4 million clean transportation grant the City received in 2022 from the California Energy Commission (CEC) that supported the launch of the program for up to 30 participants, the new DOE grant will fund significant expansion of the program. This includes new e-bike food-delivery participants, safety trainings, and robust data collection to showcase the overall and environmental benefits of utilizing e-bikes for deliveries rather than fossil-fuel powered vehicles.  

“The City of San Francisco continues to identify and bring home federal dollars for programs to benefit San Franciscans,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “This pilot is an example of how we are utilizing innovation to help create solutions that are working towards our Climate Action Plan, reducing congestion on our streets, and supporting workers in San Francisco.”  

Over 40% of San Francisco’s carbon emissions come from fossil fuel vehicle operations. As a transit-first City with a goal of achieving 80% of trips through low carbon modes of transportation, cleaner alternatives to include biking, walking, and mass transit are essential strategies within the City’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions. Clean initiatives such as this pilot program, are innovative solutions to drive mode shifts in the transportation sector by reducing greenhouse gas and promoting zero emissions technologies.

The program will continue monitoring 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. This is a key strategy in the City’s Climate Action Plan to identify and promote greener, more sustainable transportation options.

“The expanded program is a win-win for our city. It helps our delivery workers earn more income, reduces traffic and pollution, and supports our climate goals,” said Tyrone Jue, Director of the San Francisco Environment Department. “We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Energy for helping us scale up this innovative urban climate solution.”

Participants for the DOE-funded expansion of the grant will be chosen from the original pool of applicants that applied in the spring of 2023 and from another round of open applications that will be publicized this spring. Riders will commit to delivering on an e-bike from various platforms such as Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. Program participants will receive 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-bikes deliveries. Additionally, as part of the program, participants will keep their assigned e-bike and accessories including a helmet, lock, and food delivery bag at the conclusion of the program.  

“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.”  

Data collection and analysis of compared outcomes for e-bike riders versus car-based delivery workers will include earnings, tip origins and destinations, trip routes such as miles and duration, and total work time. Once the DOE portion of the grant concludes, most likely in 2025, data will be compiled and then assessed. SFE will study and report the pilot program’s findings to determine the potential that e-bike delivery has to lessen traffic congestion, reduce transportation-related emissions, and improve economics by shifting food deliveries away from cars in favor of e-bikes.

For the CEC grant, 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 began in September and will run through January 2024. The DOE cohort is expected to begin in the spring of 2024. This program was inspired by the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCo) Emerging Mobility Labor Study.