Thinking more on the subject of human-powered logistics, I will share this observation. I passed by the 99-cent Grant Discount Mart the other day, on East 167th Street and Grant Ave. The store had just received a delivery. On the sidewalk were 16 six-pack boxes of bleach, in three different sizes between 64 fluid ounces and 128 fluid ounces. That amount of bleach (assuming an average of 96 fl oz per bottle) weighs about 40 lbs per box. Sixteen 40-lb boxes weigh in total about 612 lbs.
There were about the same number of boxes of ammonia (but harder to count because they didn’t say “BLEACH” in big black letters on the boxes). Assume the same number and that’s more than 1,200 lbs of cleaning supplies on the sidewalk.
Assuming each bottle costs $1.50 at retail, the total shipment of 192 bottles of bleach and ammonia costs $288. Assume the distributor takes about 1/4 of that, or $72 (half to the manufacturer, and another quarter to the retailer).
Now, my cargo bike setup maxed out at about 500 lbs capacity. So that amount of bleach and ammonia would be three trips. To one 99-cent store. For a total of $72, which divided three ways is $24. That’s about what I would pay one rider for two hours of work. Delivery of cleaning supplies is not a financially sustainable line of business for a cargo bicycle company.
Another issue: bicycles or tricycles can’t stack their loads as high as trucks can. The lower the stack, the more surface area the delivery has to take up. Financial considerations aside, it will take up more street space or sidewalk space to deliver by cargo bike than by truck. One caveat to this calculation is that the truck is often half-empty, however.