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Tricycles could soon be coming to Vancouver's bike lanes - and they'll be hauling much more than balance-challenged preschoolers.

A group of postsecondary students will launch a business in May that will use cargo tricycles to deliver goods around the city's downtown core. The business is the first of its kind in Vancouver and will feature specially made bikes that can carry up to 270 kilograms of cargo, anything from office supplies to furniture.

The bikes - which are made in Europe and cost about $7,000 - are human powered, but feature an electric-assist option for those hard-to-climb hills.

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Graham Anderson, one of Shift Delivery Co-op's founding members, said the idea developed last year out of a sustainable community development class at Simon Fraser University. Mr. Anderson, 23, said he and his classmates had to put together a business plan for a social enterprise and learned of a company in Portland that was using heavy-duty tricycles to haul goods. Recognizing Vancouver as a city that prides itself on going green, the group set out to bring the bikes north of the border.

Mr. Anderson said Shift's service has a number of advantages to other delivery options.

"Our cargo tricycles are more efficient in the congested city core. The smaller size allows us to bypass gridlock and park virtually anywhere," he said, adding the bikes generate zero emissions. They weigh 45 to 90 kilograms and have large boxes attached to their back end.

Mr. Anderson said Shift is waiting to receive its incorporation documents, at which point it will pursue a business application with the city. "It's through that process that we'll explore the opportunity to use the bike lanes. We're obviously very hopeful. That's part of our original vision for this co-op."

Wendy Stewart, a spokeswoman with the City of Vancouver, said the tricycles would likely be permitted in the bike lanes.

"The tricycles are apparently 1.2 metres wide and under the Motor Vehicle Act a bike or vehicle cannot straddle two lanes. Our typical bike lane is 1.5 metres or greater."

She added that the tricycles would also have to comply with Motor Vehicle Act regulations for electric-assist cycles.

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Each of the co-op's members has to put in a $5,000 share.

Loretta Laurin, another of the group's five members, said the feedback the group has received so far has been very positive. Office supply, moving, and furniture companies are among those that have expressed interest.

Talib Jiwani, owner of Shirtland Drycleaners, said he's among those who plan to use the service.

"For a lot of those buildings downtown, sending one of our delivery vans is sometimes difficult for accessibility. These things are good for some of our smaller deliveries," he said.

Mr. Jiwani said as long as the items are secure and dry, he has no qualms about using Shift. He said he will start with a small percentage of his deliveries and see how the experiment goes.

"We'd like to use it as much as we can."

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