Delivering Parcels by E-Bike with UW’s Campus Mail Woman

  • The University of Washington’s e-bike powered mail delivery program is reducing climate pollution and saving money, making it a model for college and corporate campuses nationwide.
  • We took a spin with UW mail carrier and Cascade Outrider Jessica Moskowitz to learn about her super-cool job–and to highlight this inspiring sustainability initiative that has replaced mail trucks with bicycles.  
Riding my electric cargo bike is my favorite thing

Paul Tolmé

UW mail carrier Jessica Moskowitz

Jessica Moskowitz is a professional bicyclist, but not in the traditional sense of being paid to race bikes. 

Moskowitz works as a mail carrier for the University of Washington’s Mailing Services department, where she delivers letters and packages by electric bike on the UW campus and beyond.

Moskowitz pedals past Husky Stadium

A Cascade member, STP Ambassador, and Outrider who provides support at many Cascade events, Moskowitz loves her job. 

“I get to be outside most of the day,” she says. “It’s so peaceful.”

Her title is Mail Carrier Bicyclist. Moskowitz is the only female on UW’s six-person bike delivery crew, which uses Bullitt electric cargo bikes equipped with large cargo boxes. 

“This is so much better than driving the mail because we’re not fighting traffic or trying to find a place to park,” Moskowitz says.

A Campus Sustainability Solution

Founded in 2018 with funding from UW’s Campus Sustainability Fund, the university’s e-bike powered mail delivery program has been a huge success, winning multiple campus sustainability awards. 

The mail bike fleet averages about 18,000 miles annually and has logged more than 105,000 miles since 2018. 

Fleet mechanic Alistair Spence
Fleet mechanic and mail carrier Alistair Spence in the bike shop inside UW Mailing Services.

“At 20 miles per gallon that pencils out to 5,255 gallons of fuel saved, and 52.6 tons of CO2 not released into the atmosphere,” says Alistair Spence, the fleet mechanic who services UW's electric cargo bikes.

A National Model for University Campuses

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the e-bike fleet is cheaper to operate than traditional vans and trucks. UW has eliminated three large mail trucks, saving $16,000 a year per truck for annual savings of $48,000, says Steven Roberts, assistant director of UW Mailing Services.

“The e-bikes never have to worry about traffic congestion, construction, loading dock access, parking fees, toll roads, tickets, or places to park,” Roberts says. “This is definitely a national model that can be used for large and small universities and colleges.”

The Bullitt

UW is eager to share knowledge with other campuses. “We have good proven data to share with others considering a switch,” Roberts says. 

Multiple universities including Harvard, Michigan, Florida State, the University of California at San Diego, and Portland State University have inquired with UW to learn more, though to Roberts' knowledge no university has an e-cargo program as large as this one. 

Choosing the Right Bikes and Motors 

Choosing the right style of e-bike is important. UW uses Class Two e-bikes equipped with hub motors and a throttle. The throttle is crucial for getting the heavy machines moving from a stop, or when starting at the bottom of a hill. 

Moskowitz cruising through campus

Fully loaded and carrying a rider, the Bullitts can weigh 450 pounds or more. UW experimented with mid-drive electric motors, which can be preferable on lightweight e-bikes, but found the hub motors with throttles better for Seattle’s hilly terrain--and the extreme loads the mail carriers must pedal.  

UW uses GMAC hub motors from Canadian company Grin Technologies. “This hub really suits our needs. It’s got good torque and good reliability,” Spence says. “I’ve got 23,000 miles on my Bullitt in three years, and it’s been rock solid.” 

Electric Cargo Bikes as Micromobility Solution 

Cascade Bicycle Club is a huge supporter of using e-bikes for transporting heavy goods and replacing motor vehicles with bikes. In addition to using electric cargo bikes to haul supplies for our events, Cascade uses e-bikes and cargo bikes to power our Pedaling Relief Project that has rescued, delivered, and transported more than 1.2 million pounds of goods for multiple Seattle food banks since 2020.

Seattle is a hotbed for using e-bikes as efficient delivery vehicles.

UW’s prestigious Urban Freight Lab included the Pedaling Relief Project and the UW campus mail service in its “Biking the Goods” white paper, which also highlighted the Downtown Seattle Association’s use of cargo trikes for carrying trash and cleaning up 25 blocks of Seattle’s downtown core. 

Biking the Goods is essential reading for campuses, businesses, or organizations seeking ways to replace motor vehicles with bikes to cut pollution, save money, and streamline transportation and logistics. 

Riding with the Mail Woman

Moskowitz poses with her bike on the UW campus
Go Dawgs! Go Jessica!

I met up with Moskowitz on a February afternoon for a ride-along. She begins her day by sorting mail and packages at the Mailing Services office before loading up her Bullitt and doing a morning route, then returning to reload for an afternoon delivery route.

Dressed in her purple UW fleece and with her Bullitt fully loaded, Moskowitz pedaled away from the Mailing Services building and rode up to the Burke-Gilman Trail that passes through campus.

Pedaling up the Burke-Gilman Trail through campus.

It was a mild and overcast winter day, and students walked between classes. We zipped along quietly, emitting no pollution and enjoying the sun on our faces.

Moskowitz dropped off and picked up packages and letters at multiple campus buildings, using the big double-sided kickstand to balance the heavy Bullitt when parked.

Moskowitz took the job in December after working for several years in a different university position that required her to be indoors at a desk. Being a bicycling mail carrier is literally a breath of fresh air. 

Zero emissions, infinite possibilities
Zero emissions. Infinite possibilities.

“My job is great. Riding bikes, being outside, I love it,” she says. “I’m a professional cyclist.”

Learn More about Electric Cargo Bikes

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