Another Insightful Streetsblog Comment

I looked this one up today so I could refer to it again; I don’t know if it’s really that insightful or whether I just keep rebutting the same guy with the same bland insight.

A true 21st century human-powered logistics system would still require extensive distribution and logistics facilities. The West Side docks closed because they didn’t have the fifty acres of back-pad necessary to offload and store the containers from the ships; I presume the same acreage is necessary for any kind of transfer facility, which leads to the question of where best to locate an 18-block logistics facility in midtown Manhattan.

This is a pretty good argument that the likelihood of a 21st-century human-powered logistics system developing in New York City is pretty slim, as land is so expensive it makes the return on the investment too small. Look at Chelsea Market, which is one single block, and how that adapted from a small-scale food distribution center to a high-end retail food center.

Another reason this is a good argument is that Greg, the cargo-trike guy on the West Side, suggests the creation of a distribution center, “like in Paris,” as a prerequisite for a human-powered delivery system.

Other more bicycle-specific reasons are these:

System max weight is 700 to 1000 lbs, using a tricycle chassis. System can probably carry about 10 big-size totes (22 inches long, 12 in deep, 15 in wide), each of which can hold 50 lbs of coffee. So you cube out before you weigh out. But really, the staff costs kill you, with the workers’ compensation insurance added on. Going more than a couple blocks at 5 mph increases the time spent traveling, and therefore the payroll (as well as helping bump up against the 8 hour limit, and the lunch hour…) over reasonable costs. Hiring more workers to cover slow travel means you need more bikes as well as a larger pool of potential workers. And if you are only going 5 mph with a cargo trike, you might as well go 3 mph with a hand cart and save on the workers’ comp and the salary.

One reason a tricycle is better than bicycle for really heavy loads because you can shift into a lower gear while standing still on a tricycle. In order to get going with a heavy load from a standstill on a bicycle, you need to be in the low gear when you stop. I remember with fondness the high crown of Avenue A at East 2d St, and trying with difficulty to get the bike with trailer into forward motion over that crowned roadway.