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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Oregon Startup Pedals To Cut GHG Emissions in Portland

Portland-based startup-up B-Line says its small team of electrical-tricycle couriers has replaced 20,000 commercial truck and van deliveries since its inception in 2009.

The company works with firms such as Office Depot to transport parcels via electric tricycles, which can carry as much as 600 pounds of freight at a time. Its trikes also move fruit, vegetables, coffee, water and bicycle parts around Portland’s urban center.

B-Line says it aims to serve as a catalyst for positive change, reducing congestion and GHG emissions while partnering with local small businesses and creating “green collar” jobs. While the operation is still small, consisting only of six bikes and 15 employees, the company plans to expand to Seattle later this year.

“I was more focused on the greening of the distribution network than the bike business niche in starting this up,” said Franklin Jones, a former schoolteacher and founder and CEO of B-Line in a 2010 interview. “I was looking at the gap and trying to find the missing link in sustainable transportation.”

U.S. consumers continue to gravitate towards online retailers such as Amazon, eBay and Fresh Direct. E-commerce sales in 2012 grew by more than 15 percent to $186 billion, according to Internet analytics company comScore. As a result, traditional couriers such as FedEx and UPS have seen their daily volume of shipments grow year after year, increasing the number of GHG-emitting vehicles on the road.

FedEx and UPS both have made significant inroads in making their delivery processes more eco-friendly. FedEx recently reported it has trimmed the fuel economy of its entire fleet by more than 22 percent, years ahead of its 2020 goal. The company has also introduced its own small fleet of electric tricycle couriers in Paris. UPS, which was recently named one of Ethisphere's World’s Most Ethical Companies for the sixth consecutive yearexperimented with bicycle deliveries during the 2012 London Olympics

While large trucks will continue to be needed for larger shipments, electric tricycle couriers have proven more nimble in the urban sprawl, capable of making quicker deliveries while reducing environmental impact.

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