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Vélo Courier: Porto Alegre, Brazil

By Dominic Lucchesi

Pedal Express continues our look at bicycle couriers across the globe.  Our latest installment brings us to South America where we got in touch with Alex, worker-owner at Vélo Courier out of Porto Alegre, Brazil.

A real nice dude, read on to find out what he had to say about the bike messenger bizness.  Please note, the Google translation kind of chewed up the responses in English, so I edited them a tad.  We have included a full transcript in the native Portugese at the bottom of the post!

Who are you and where do you operate? And for how long?

My name is Alex, and I work at Vélo Courier.  I’m from Porto Alegre – Brasil.  I started working as a bike courier a year ago, after I decided to leave the office life and be happy.

Example of a typical delivery and an atypical delivery?

We usually transport envelopes, letters, small boxes, etc.  A great example of an unusual delivery, was the time I had to carry a microwave for technical assistance (in the back).

What kind of bike(s) do you use?
Generally steel frames, old bikes with fixed gear, due to low maintenance costs.
On-the-job challenges that you may face?
The main one is the hostility in traffic.  For here, unfortunately, the bike is still not well accepted in traffic. Other challenges are long distance deliveries or too heavy.
 
Number of riders/employees/owners?
6.

What does the future hold for the bicycle courier industry?
Everything, the bike will take the power back!  Unfortunately here in Brazil, the market supply consists mostly of couriers on motorcycles, the famous “moto-boys”, who are, as some would say a “necessary evil” for their violent behavior through the traffic scares a bit.
(Sorry for the english.  “Google Translate” is really why we are not good in your language. I hope you understand, hehe.)
 
Thank you for contacting!  Abraço!
Who are you and where do you operate? And for how long?
Me chamo Alex, tenho 21 anos e trabalho na Vélo Courier, em Porto Alegre – Brasil.
Comecei a trabalhar como mensageiros à cerca de dois anos, quando decidi largar um emprego medíocre e ser feliz logo de uma vez. A cooperativa onde trabalho atualmente tem apenas 6 meses de existência, trabalhei como “free-lancer” antes de fundá-la.
 
Example of a typical delivery and an atypical delivery?
Geralmente transportamos pequenos pacotes, como pequenas caixas, envelopes, cartas, cd’s, flores, etc etc.
Uma entrega atípica, no meu caso e experiência, foi o dia em que tive de transportar um aparelho de microondas para a assistência técnica. Foi muito difícil, pois a mochila era ruim e o aparelho era muito pesado e desengonçado.
 
What kind of bike(s) do you use?
Uso bikes de pinha fixa, como a grande maioria dos funcionários da nossa cooperativa. Tem menores custos de manutenção.
 
On-the-job challenges that you may face?
Pedalar por aqui já é o maior desafio, pois nosso país ainda está caminhando para aceitar a bicicleta como veículo no trânsito. O maior desafio é e sempre será sair pra trabalhar e voltar vivo pra casa.
 
Number of riders/employees/owners?
6.
What does the future hold for the bicycle courier industry?
Tudo! A bicicleta retomará o controle, pelo menos trabalho de 2 à 5hs pedalando para humanizar o trânsito e mostrar às pessoas que uma cidade melhor só depende de nós. Nossa missão, como dizemos, não é passar a vida inteira quase morrendo no trânsito para entregar pacotes de pessoas que não querem correr esse risco, não somos uma rede de fast food, estamos humanizando a cidade para que todos possam transitar em paz por ela.
Novamente, agradeço o carinho e a oportunidade!  Abraço!
There were an estimated 10,000 - 15,000 visitors in attendance

Oaklavía @ Love Our Lake Day 2013

By Dominic@pedalexpress.com

I joined the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) Board of Directors in January 2009.  At the time, countries across the nation were embracing the “open-street” event known as Ciclovía, pioneered  years ago in Bogotá, Columbia.  

Across the Bay, San Francisco had launched it’s own car-free streets event, Sunday Streets.  With so many scenic locales and vibrant neighborhoods, organizers within local bicycle/pedestrian advocacy circles began to wonder: When would Oakland join the burgeoning Open-Streets Movement?

I remember early WOBO meetings in which we discussed making this kind of event a reality.  We pulled out maps and excitedly traced out the route that our imaginary event would follow.  And that’s basically as far as it went until a year or so later.  By then, we had  Executive Director,  Kassie Rohrbach and organizer extraordinaire, Karen Hester to help bring what would would eventually be called Oaklavía to life.

The hurdles WOBO faced were many.  An event like this had never happened in Oakland before.  Countless hours were spent organizing Oaklavía, with virtually no help from the City itself.  The cost of the event quickly skyrocketed and attempts at fundraising were escalated.  (I remember timidly asking my employer at the time, City CarShare, for a donation.  I was overjoyed when they graciously agreed!)

Along the way, many things changed from the original plan.  At the beginning, there were two events planned: an Oaklavía in Downtown Oakland in the Summer, followed by another in the fall, this time in the Fruitvale District.  (We even had posters printed and distributed promoting both events.)  As the price tag continued to grow, we were forced to scrap the Fruitvale event and focus solely on Downtown Oakland if this thing had any chance in hell of happening.

On June 27th, 2010, Oaklavía did happen and it was a great success. Thousands filled the streets to walk, ride, skate and dance.  Reclusive friends emerged from their San Francisco cocoons to hang out with me in Downtown Oakland for a change.  It was beautiful.  That being said, I never thought it would happen again.

So, you can understand my excitement when I heard rumors about the return of Oaklavía.  Around beautiful Lake Merritt no less, and this time with the support of Mayor Jean Quan.

Oaklavía #2 went down this past Sunday, June 9th, as part of Love Our Lake Day.  Needless to say, I had a great time.  Pedal Express was there with camera in tow.  This is what we saw:

Top Tube Vinyl

Pedal Express Has a New Look!

PedEx Courier Service

You may have seen it around, but now you are officially informed. Pedal Express has a new and improved look!

David Polka

We partnered with Oakland artist David Polka to redesign our entire brand image, including our logo, website, apparel and marketing materials.

New Logo

There are many elements about David’s design that we are proud of. We wanted something with a vintage feel (after all, we are using 19th century technology to make a living), and an adaptable, timeless quality. The badge shape is perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to our beloved Oakland Raiders, but we felt it was already an iconic East Bay shape, and was perfectly suited to recall Pedal Express’s 19 year history in the area.

New Swag

Polka designed a number of different materials for us. We’ve got postcards, stickers, vinyl, stamps, the whole shabang!

Top Tube Vinyl

So keep your eyes peeled for a PedEx bike parked somewhere in Berkeley, Emeryville or Oakland! And let us know what you think with a shout out on Facebook.

A Quick Summary of Carbon Fiber (cuz we wanted to know too)

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To put it very briefly, the material we know as “carbon fiber” is actually a mixture of long, woven threads of crystallized carbon atoms (graphite) impregnated with a plastic resin. It is sort of like dipping a piece of canvas into a bucket of glue and letting it dry. The carbon threads are only a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair, which means their are MILLIONS of them packed into very dense spaces.

carbon tubes

Depending on the weave of the sheets, carbon composites can have varying levels of tensile (stretch) strength, and modulus (stiffness). The reason that carbon fiber has become so popular in the sports and transportation industry is because of its excellent strength-to-weight ratio (higher than nearly all metal alloys) and its fabled rigidity.

layup_ExampleThe sheets are layered in different directions (like plywood) to form tubes and other rigid shapes. This is called the “layup”. Because they are stronger along the long axis of the graphite threads, the carbon sheets are usually added in at least eight layers, each one rotated in a different linear direction depending on the application of the tubing.

ti lug on cfOnce the sheets or tubes of carbon fiber are layed-up and molded into their intended shape,  they are heat-treated at temperatures well over 1,500 degrees, which increases their strength considerably. Currently, the majority of all carbon fiber in the world is manufactured by only five major companies.

Bici Bici 2013

Bici Bici Quick Recap

Bici Bici 2013

Zoinks!  We’ve been slammed the past few weeks and the blog-writing duties have unfortunately been a lil’ neglected.  Still, I wanted to give a quick recap of the Bici! Bici! Conference that took place over this past weekend.

Bici! Bici! is an annual conference that aims to bring together those involved in California  bicycle cooperatives through talks, presentations, skill shares and workshops.  This year, Bici! Bici! was organized and hosted by our friends over at Spokeland Bike Co-Op.

Dozens of bike-folks from across the state descended on our fair city.  A majority of the out-of-towners were from LA and had never been to Oakland before.  Yee!

Pedal Express held several workshops at our office space in Emeryville:

Workshop #1: Inspiring New Cyclists & Mechanics

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A roundtable discussion regarding best-practices when it comes to teaching and empowering those who have an interest in bikes, but may be new to the bike co-op scene, or cycling in general.

Workshop #2: Technology in Co-Ops

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A presentation about how to use technology to improve operational efficiency in bike co-ops.  Included a brief overview of popular, free software like Google Drive and LastPass.

Workshop #3: Hustling Donations 101/Fundraising Through Events

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A motivating presentation about how to host events and gather donations.  The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff!

Workshop #4: Practicamos Espanol del Taller (Practicing Shop Spanish)

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A technical workshop, focusing on bike shop-talk en Espanol.

In attendance were representatives from Bicycle Co-Ops from all over the state.  Here is a partial list of those in attendance:

I had a great time at the conference.  Met a ton of new people and was fascinated to hear tales of bike culture in other parts of the state.

Perhaps my favorite Bici! Bici! moment came at the after party at the Lobot Gallery.  I noticed that the group was split up between Bay Area folks and those from LA.  In a slightly inebriated state, I pointed this out to the nearest Angeleno.  The next thing I know, I’m being wrapped up in a group hug made up of everyone in the room, spinning around, and chanting “BIKES! BIKES! BIKES! BIKES!”

– Dom

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Bicycle Couriers: A Global Profession

The bicycle courier industry is not a new one.  In fact, it’s origins can be traced back to the mid 19th-Century, coinciding with the rise in popularity of early velocipedes.

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Today, despite the rise of fax machines and email, bicycle courier companies can be found in cities and towns across the globe.  Because of their ability to avoid unexpected holdups – traffic jams, parking restrictions, tickets and fines – bicycle messengers provides a unique and dependable service that is unmatched by other forms of motorized delivery.

Pedal Express takes pride in being part of a long tradition of bicycle couriers.  The industry itself is incredibly diverse and far-reaching, and we are constantly on the lookout for new companies from which to learn from.

One of our goals for this blog space is to showcase other bicycle courier companies that we admire.  We hope that these posts will help you (the reader) better understand what it is that bicycle messengers do.

For those of us in the industry, we hope that these posts provide a bit of global context and help better connect and inspire bicycle couriers worldwide.

Pedala Bike Messengers (Quezon City, Philippines)

Pedala Bike Messengers, Inc. currently serves the people and businesses of Metro Manila.  Now, I’ve never been to the Philippines, but from what I understand, Manila is a gnarly place to ride a bike.  Whether it’s fighting for space on streets notorious for it’s traffic jams, breathing in lung-fulls of polluted air, or braving the often harsh tropical monsoon climate, the Pedala Messengers seem to ride through it all with a smile on their faces:

Pedala offers an affordable, same-day delivery service.  A one way delivery will cost you P100 (about $2.44); a roundtrip delivery goes for P200.  Need a rush delivery?  No problem, just double the price and they will add your job to the top of the queue.  Clients can place an order via phone, email or text.

Perhaps the most admirable thing about Pedala is it’s unabashed commitment to environmental and social best-practices.  While it may seem an obvious thing to do, not every bicycle courier company actively tries to promote cycling as a way to improve community health.  Pedala’s efforts to connect the dots become even more meaningful when considering that air pollution across Asia has reached epidemic levels.  Smog in Manila alone is directly linked to thousands of deaths each year.

From the Pedala website:

Pedala Bike Messengers, Inc. is a social enterprise, a business that considers three bottom lines: profit, environmental action, and social gains.

Pedala offers cost-effective, if not faster, same-day delivery courier services primarily for small and medium enterprises. The company strikes a symbiotic relationship with its clients: as Pedala earns profits for itself it saves costs, and time, for its clientele.

Pedala also believes in promoting the use of bicycles as a means to minimize the use of fuel, lower pollution levels, and thus allow for safer, cleaner air. Because it doesn’t use gasoline, Pedala is a non-polluting enterprise that doesn’t burn fossil fuels, consequently lowering its clients’ carbon footprint.

As a social objective, Pedala seeks to hire cyclists and athletes who want to train for competitions at the same time earn something for their efforts. With many athletes eager to develop physical endurance as well as promote better environmental practices like biking, Pedala’s roster of cyclists is constantly growing. Biking for Pedala has, indeed, become a badge of honor.

pedala

Long Haul Flatbed

The Long Haul: The Heart and Soul of Pedal Express

What sets Pedal Express apart from other bike messenger companies? Well there’s a number of reasons actually.

But one of the coolest and most interesting is our cargo hauling capacity. We can (and often do) move anything up to 500 pounds with our our diverse fleet of trailers and cargo bikes. Since the mid-90’s we have relied proudly on the reliability and versatility of a machine created in Eugene, Oregon.

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This is The Long Haul. It is a purpose-built cargo hauler based off a design that originated in Europe in the 1920’s. Human Powered Machines has tweaked the geometry slightly, used stronger and lighter tubing and updated the componentry, but for the most part, this tried-and-true workhorse has been moving impressive loads all over the world for nearly a century.

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If you’ve been on the streets in Berkeley, Emeryville or Oakland between the hours of 9am and 5pm anytime in the last eighteen years, chances are you have seen a Pedal Express courier transporting something cool in one of our big red Long Hauls. Over the past two decades we’ve moved everything from furniture, to electronics, to massive catering orders, to publications, to coffee in them.

We’ve even bailed out a few friends who had breakdowns (Our aluminum racks easily fit a rider and their bike)!

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Our Long Hauls also come with optional fiberglass shells which are completely waterproof and lockable. Since we proudly operate rain or shine, we need to make sure our precious cargo is safe and dry when it arrives at its destination.

Even if we aren’t.

We lovingly refer to the white fiberglass contraptions as “eggs”. We love riding them because they make ten-year-olds smile. And they hold in the delicious smells of pizza, curry, french fries or any other foods we happen to be delivering.

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Over the years, many manufacturers have developed some pretty amazing cargo bikes that are designed to do the kind of things we do on our Long Hauls. But after nearly 20 years of reliable service, we just can’t think of a reason to replace these icons of Pedal Express’s long and infamous past.

Thank you Human Powered Machines. And thank you Long Haul.

Here’s to many more years of service in the East Bay!

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Partnership Through Bikes: Hot Italian and Pedal Express

As far as PedX is concerned, the bigger the order, the better!

If you have ever had the pleasure of dining at Hot Italian’s Emeryville location, then you certainly understand their intense affection for the “beautiful machine”. The ultra-modern restaurant is adorned with images of bike silhouettes on their employee uniforms, their pizza boxes, their pins, their business cards and their menus.

Frames and bikes from local companies hang on the walls. Exotic parts, classic jerseys and numerous bike magazines complete the gallery-like ambience that surround you. And if you’re there at the right time, you can watch a bike race on their projection screen while you wait for your Birra, your Insalata or your Panini.

If you’ve ever been riding through Emeryville and had the misfortune of having some mechanical difficulties, hopefully you found the tool you needed at their free, outdoor Fixit stand.

The love for bicycles at Hot Italian is obvious, and so it should come as no surprise that they choose the East Bay’s ONLY bicycle couriers to deliver their food in Emeryville!

Meet the masterminds behind Hot Italian: 

HI-Cercatore & Lepore

Who are you and what do you do?

The belief   “anything is possible” connected the two passionate, thirty-something founders of HOT ITALIAN—one from an Italian-American family of artists and the other, an artistic pizzaiolo from the Italian Riviera. Andrea Lepore’s and Fabrizio Cercatore’s mission was to build a place where pizza brings people together to celebrate Italy’s new generation of art, music, design, sport, food and wine. By combining these elements with California’s urban lifestyle, seasonal, quality ingredients, and a conscious commitment to our environment and community, HOT ITALIAN hopes to inspire, make a difference, and create better neighborhoods.

Where are you located?

Midtown Sacramento and Emeryville’s Public Market

Why do you choose to use Pedal Express?

Our first location was the first restaurant in California named a “Bicycle Friendly Business” by the League of American Bicyclists as we have bike parking for 32 bikes, host several bike-themed events and support the urban California lifestyle. We deliver by bicycle in California’s Capital and in the East Bay as it’s an easy way to incorporate this lifestyle into everything we do.

Favorite thing about living/working in the East Bay?

The culture, the people, and the other great restaurants make the East Bay a fun place to live and work. We look forward to experiencing more of it and meeting other entrepreneurs and residents and getting involved in the community.

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The partnership between Pedal Express and Hot Italian is a no-brainer. They love the East Bay, we love the East Bay. They love bikes, we love bikes. They love food deliveries, we love delivering food. They love pizza, we (duh) love pizza.

Hungry yet?

Pedal Express is on call Monday through Friday from 11am ’til 2pm, rain or shine, ready to bring piping hot, artisanal pizza to Emeryville homes, offices and businesses!

Who doesn't love a delicious artisanal pizza on a lovely Spring day?

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Client Profile: Gorgeous & Green

This is the first entry in a series focusing on the fine folks who keep our doors open and our wheels turning: our clients.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we’re gonna shed some light on a local florist and one of our favorite clients – Gorgeous & Green.  For more than a year now, Pedal Express has been delivering stunningly beautiful G&G flower arrangements and gifts all over the East Bay.  We love working with G&G – the only East Bay florist to offer local bicycle delivery.

Last week, shop owner Pilar Zuniga was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions and let us invade her space for a lil’ photo shoot…

Pilar & Dom clowning around at G&G
Pilar & Dom clowning around at G&G

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Pilar Zuniga, and I own Gorgeous and Green, a local and sustainable boutique that offers locally grown flower design (sustainable and organic when available), locally made and eco-friendly goods.  I have two employees, Ryan and Jessie, who help with the boutique and with flower design.  The retail boutique offers walk in services and we also offer design for events as well as local gift and flower delivery!  This is where PedEx comes in!

Where are you located?

Right now, we are at 2524 San Pablo Ave in Berkeley.  But we are moving to 2946 College Ave on February 15th!  We hope to see you at our new location.

Favorite thing about living/working in the East Bay?

I have lived in the East Bay longer than any other place.  It is not only beautiful, but the community is wonderfully diverse as well.  I want to be part of a community and that’s easier to do here than other parts of the bay.  I learned how to think responsibly when I went to Cal almost 20 years ago, and I am so thankful for the numerous other people in the Bay who think the same way.

Why do you choose to use Pedal Express?

I am always trying to figure out how to offer more sustainable and eco-friendly services at the boutique (like avoiding plastics, using recycled paper, biofuels, etc.) and bicycle delivery is the greenest method of transport available.  I value supporting local business.  I also value local cooperatives.  And, I have to say, it helps me tremendously to have a third party that I can trust to take charge of the deliveries!

From Left to Right: Ryan, Pilar, and Jessie
From Left to Right: Ryan, Pilar, and Jessie
In case you’re searching for a last minute V-Day gift for that special someone (or for yourself!), check out the Gorgeous & Green online store and place an order.  And when you do, tell them you want it delivered by bike!
For more on Gorgeous & Green, check out this recent blog post.
Shout out to The Volcano Club for taking the pictures!
Dom, Katie and Nick

Welcome a.k.a. Blog Post #1

I didn’t know the East Bay had bike messengers…

Say “Hello” to Pedal Express, the East Bay’s ONLY bicycle courier service since 1994. We love the challenges of the courier industry. Whether it’s a rush job in Downtown Oakland, delivering lunch for your entire office, or hauling 300 pounds of publications across town – You name it, we’ll move it.

We are committed to promoting environmentally sustainable and socially just business practices. We are dedicated to strengthening our local economy and creating quality jobs. We are collectively owned and operated – every rider you see on the street is a devoted partner invested in the company, our communities, and dedicated to getting your delivery done right.

This blog is an attempt to share our unique experiences with you and hopefully explain a little bit better what it is exactly bike messengers in the East Bay do on a daily basis.  Enjoy!

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