Tag Archives: Bike Messenger

Pedal Express says “Vote YES” on Measure BB

Vote YES! Measure BB

By Dominic Lucchesi

Our job at Pedal Express is to make deliveries across the East Bay by bike.  Our work week is literally spent riding around Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, loaded down with packages of all shapes and sizes.

With so much time spent in the saddle, we get a unique perspective on the cycling infrastructure in the East Bay.  The condition of which influences our routing, and can often determine how fast we can make a delivery.  That being said, the condition of our roads leaves much to be desired.

In case y’all didn’t know, election day is next Tuesday, November 4th.  Measure BB is on the ballot and is super important for all road users in Alameda County, but it’s especially critical for cyclists, pedestrians and public transit riders.

In a nutshell, Measure BB is an increase in the transportation sales tax to fund critical improvements, including restoring cut bus service, making unprecedented investments in safer walking and biking, and repairing potholes on local roads.

With one week left to go before election day, Pedal Express is officially endorsing a “Yes” vote on Alameda County Measure BB.

We’re no good at writing about policy, but these folks are!  Click on the links below for detailed analysis of the election and Measure BB from some of our friends in the know:

Transform

Bike East Bay

Walk Oakland Bike Oakland

East Bay Express

Berkeleyside

MapLight

YES on BB

 

2014 NACCC Minneapolis

One week removed from the event, here is a brief rundown of my 2014 NACCC experience…

I’ll admit, I was apprehensive about traveling to Minneapolis for the 2014 North American Cycle Courier Championship (NACCC).  I’m a bit of an introvert and the thought of being in a strange city with 100+ people that I didn’t know… well, shoot, I was nervous!  Thankfully, I wasn’t alone – Pedal Express co-owner Savanna made the journey as well. In fact, there was a nice Oakland contingent in attendance (shout out to the amazing Lauren, Molli and Heather representing FWOD).

Pedal Express is the only bicycle courier company in the East Bay Area (and we are proud of it!) but at times the job can feel rather isolating. Although there is a thriving messenger community across the Bay in San Francisco, our paths rarely cross – East Bay messengers are kind of an oddity.

[Correction: we were recently joined in the East Bay by the crew at Darling Courier – representing the island of Alameda!]

I went to NACCC primarily to network with the greater messenger community. There are a ton of people across the globe doing the exact same thing that we at PedX are doing – moving shit with bikes. I wanted to hear about other peoples’ experiences. What are some of the challenges that they face? And how can we help each other be successful during a time when large corporate entities (i.e. Google, Amazon, Postmates) are all trying to get into the delivery game?

NACCC is a unique event in that it is organized by and for messengers. The vibes were positive, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were already aware of Pedal Express. Folks in attendance came from all over – The Midwest (Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee) and the East Coast (NYC, Baltimore) were well represented. Canada too. SF had a significant presence as well; lots of TCB riders along with the eventual Women’s Champ, Christina Peck of Godspeed Courier. Oh yeah, there were a bunch of Aussies running around too.

One of the industry topics that was widely discussed throughout the weekend was the shift away from legal work and business-to-business delivery, and the growth of business-to-consumer deliveries. The challenges of food delivery was an especially popular topic.   I gained a lot of valuable information that can and will be applied to Pedal Express, to make PedX  even more effective in the months to come.

Throughout the course of the weekend, there was a bunch of bike racing, beer drinking and swimming in rivers (I’ll let the photos fill in the blanks). The tooobing trip on Labor Day was magical – totally one of those moments that will be forever ingrained in my memory banks. I want to say THANK YOU to the organizers for throwing one hell of event, and for showing us around your beautiful city.  I returned home with a greater sense of awareness and respect for the messenger community.

Lastly, Minneapolis is awesome. The riding was fantastic, and the scenery was gorgeous. The people were hospitable, and the food was delish. Totally my kind of town.

Over and out.

– Dominic

The 2013 Pedal Express Holiday List

By Dominic Lucchesi

The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you haven’t even begun your X-Mas shopping.  Not that you have to buy a damn thing.  However, if you are going to spend your hard-earned cash on gifts anyways, PedX is here to give you a few suggestions.

Full disclosure:  the following list is comprised of folks who use Pedal Express in one way or another.  Many of whom have been clients of ours for several years or even decades.  They are all local, small businesses committed to socially just and environmentally sustainable business practices.  Perhaps more importantly, they are all real friendly, hard-working folks who help make our communities more vibrant places to live.

Gorgeous & Green

2946 College Avenue, Berkeley | (510)665-7974

One of our all-time faves.  Pilar and the crew at Gorgeous & Green will blow you away with their meticulously assembled, stunning floral arrangements.  In addition to their vast selection of locally-sourced, organic flowers, you can find awesome vintage glass, jewelry, cards, terrariums and other thoughtful gifts.  Can’t make it in to the boutique?  No problem.  Place an order online or over the phone and have it delivered to that special someone by a handsome bicycle courier.

Pilar and Ryan at the shop

House Kombucha

A recent addition to the PedX family, the Oakland-based House Kombucha makes the best tasting fermented teas you’ll ever have. Hands down.  Pick up a bottle or two (or three!) from your local cafe or super market.  I highly recommend the new Smoked Pear flavor!

The House Kombucha Crew

Twig & Fig

2110 Vine Street, Berkeley | (510) 848-5599

I love making deliveries for Twig & Fig.  The owners are awesome: Suzie is the sweetest and Serge is a bicycle enthusiast who is always happy to show me all the crazy toys in his print shop.  Together, Suzie and Serge produce some of the finest paper products you’ll ever see.  Stop by their shop in North Berkeley to check out a wide selection of papers from around the world, pens, journals and more!

Serge, doing his thing

Heyday Books

One of our longest standing clients.  From their website, “Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution. We promote widespread awareness and celebration of California’s many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. Through our well-crafted books, public events, and innovative outreach programs we are building a vibrant community of readers, writers, and thinkers.”  How cool is that?  You can purchase Heyday books on their website or at virtually any bookstore in California.

Heyday Books

City CarShare

I rarely drive, but when I do, I use City CarShare.

City CarShare

Palm Press

We love these folks.  Based out of Berkeley, Palm Press publishes a unique collection of greeting cards for all occasions.  Featuring high quality photographs from all over the world, you can find their products at several local stores.  Keep an eye out for their signature palm tree logo!

Palm Press

Stella Nonna

1407 San Pablo Ave | (510) 524-3400

We handle catering deliveries for these cats.  For years, Stella Nonna was based out of a commercial kitchen near Telegraph Ave.  This past year, they have branched out and opened a stellar new restaurant on San Pablo Ave.  A perfect place for a delicious holiday meal!

Stella Nonna!

The Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative

1988 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley | (510) 843-7471

These folks have been huge supporters of Pedal Express since day one.  Need something for your bike?  Want to buy a gift for that bike fanatic in your life?  This is the shop you want to visit.  They have a super helpful staff and are worker-owned!

For 40 years… Missing Link!

Lastly, I’ll throw in a shameless plug for Pedal Express.  I’ll spare you the Santa Claus/bike messenger analogies but do give us a buzz if you need help with your holiday deliveries.  We specialize in same-day deliveries throughout Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and beyond!

Happy Holidays, y’all!

Behind the Scenes: City of Berkeley Mail Room

By Dominic Lucchesi

“The mail never stops! It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there’s never a let-up! It’s relentless! Every day it piles up more and more and more! And you gotta get it out! But the more you get it out the more it keeps coming in! ”  — Newman

Like most large companies or institutions, the City of Berkeley has a mail room.  This particular room is in the basement of 1947 Center St.  It is here that the city’s mail is received and sorted to be dispersed to the various departments and offices in Downtown Berkeley.

1947 Center St:  Pedal Express spends a lot of time here

For nearly two decades, Pedal Express has worked with the City of Berkeley to help with the distribution process.  A substantial part of our daily routes consist of picking up city mail from the mail room and delivering it to outlying departments such as the Berkeley Housing Authority, Corporation Yards, the Public Health Clinic, and the Berkeley Marina.  At each stop, we exchange incoming mail and take outgoing items to be returned to the mailroom and sorted for other departments.  In this way, the bicycle couriers of Pedal Express act as a crucial part of the City of Berkeley’s communication network.

Alan, on his way to exchange mail at the Berkeley Marina
Alan, on his way to exchange mail at the Berkeley Marina

(We provide a similar service for the City of Emeryville.  To our knowledge, Berkeley and Emeryville are the only two cities that use bicycle couriers for their internal mail distribution.) In addition to our daily delivery duties, Pedal Express is trained to run the City’s entire mailroom operation in the event that Matthew (the mailroom clerk) is sick or out of town.  It just so happens that Matthew has been on vacation for the entire month of November.

Nick, running the mailroom
Nick, running the mailroom

This month, while Pedal Express is busy moving all sorts of things across the East Bay per usual, we have also been in charge of the Berkeley mail room.  It’s an interesting job that provides us with a unique opportunity to work closely with the folks who help make the City of Berkeley function properly. Running the mail room is largely a one-person operation.  Each morning, either Nick or I will pick up the Berkeley mail from the main Post Office before heading to the mail room, ready to sort through hundreds of pieces of mail.

Hella mail.
Hella mail.

Throughout the course of the day, we will deliver mail to 40+ departments in four buildings in downtown Berkeley.  These departments include Mayor Tom Bate’s office, Finance, Parks and Recreation, Rent Board, Planning, Engineering, Revenue Collection, City Auditor,  IT, Human Resources, Police and Fire, and so on.  We have an official badge that allows us to wander the City Hall offices with impunity.  It’s great.

There is some great art work on display at City Hall. This is in the Mayor's office.
There is some great art work on display at City Hall. This is in the Mayor’s office.

Aside from mingling with the busy bees around City Hall, perhaps the most fun part of this particular job is playing with the huge metering machine.  This is what we use to apply postage to the hundreds and thousands of pieces of outgoing mail that the City sends out on the daily.

This is a metering machine.  It can weigh, seal, and affix postage to hundreds of pieces of mail at a time.
This is a metering machine. It can weigh, seal, and affix postage to hundreds of pieces of mail at a time.

Working in the mail room is a unique experience.  We get to see a side of Berkeley that most people don’t.  Still, the mail room job can be a lonely one.  We spend long stretches of time in the basement with very little human contact.  It can start to do funny things to a person.  Thus, we affectionately refer to the mail room as “The Cave.”

After a month working in The Cave, we're ready to go back to riding full time
After a month spent working in The Cave, we’re ready to go back to riding full time

With the end of the month upon us, our time working in the mail room will soon come to an end.  I suppose we’ll occasionally miss the steady pace of city work and the warm shelter of The Cave when it’s raining outside, but lemme tell ya, I cannot wait to get back in the saddle full time for Pedal Express.  See you in the streets!

Congrats to our favorite security guard, Anthony (aka Big Tone) on his Football Pool victory!
Oh, and congrats to our favorite security guard, Anthony (aka Big Tone) on his Football Pool victory!  (I’ll get you my picks tomorrow!)

Bay Area Cyclists: An Afterthought

By Dominic Lucchesi

Disclaimer:  The following is an admittedly emotional and reactionary rant.  Sorry for all the doom and gloom, but I had to vent.  I swear, I’ll be back to my usual, chipper self in the morning.  Continue reading at your own peril.

The news that a cyclist was struck and killed by a truck at 6th and Folsom in San Francisco this morning really hit me in the gut.

I have been working on my bicycle in the Bay Area for roughly six years now (yes, I get paid to ride my bike).  Four of those years was spent riding primarily in San Francisco.  I’ve spent the last two as a worker-owner at Pedal Express, a small bicycle courier company operating in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

I do not own a car.  This means that even when I’m not working, I am riding my bike.  To the store to pick up groceries; to the bar to grab drinks with the homies; even riding to visit my family in East Oakland and San Leandro.  What this experience has provided me with is a unique, street-level view of life in the Bay Area.

I notice little changes in the streetscape that others may not see.  I can tell when I’m leaving Emeryville and entering Oakland by the drop in quality of the street pavement.  For years and months I waited in agony while construction crews worked to complete a short section of the Bay Trail at the Berkeley Marina.  I’ve seen potholes come and go and then come back again…

At the same time, I’ve watched the bicycle infrastructure grow in San Francisco, greatly exceeding anything that we have in the East Bay (colored pavement, protected bike lanes, bike traffic signals, etc).

And if San Francisco represents the most bike-friendly city in the Bay, what does that make Berkeley or Oakland?  While SF is busy transforming Market Street, efforts to add safe bike lanes on Tunnel Rd are in serious jeopardy because the neighbors don’t want to give up a few on-street parking spots.  On 40th St, attempts to add bike lanes were nixed in favor of adding little sharrows and a green strip of paint DOWN THE MIDDLE OF A TRAVEL LANE.  And nobody really seems to know about it.

Despite all the hype and political sweet talk, I can’t help but feel that cyclists are a complete afterthought both locally and nationally.  Me and all of my bike-riding friends are one right turn away from being struck from existence.   And if that happens, regardless of the circumstances, the internet will be buzzing with comments like this:

From my experience commuting to work on a bike is that many riders I see need a basic bike safety course. They appear to create hazards where one shouldn’t exist usually out of impatience.

Ugh.  I swear, it’s almost enough to make a guy give up the bike messenger biz in favor of a desk job and a nice, safe, gas-guzzling Hummer.

#Eastbaymesslife Recap

By Dominic Lucchesi

Well, I must say, the first “big” event at Pedal Express was a definite success.  The cops weren’t called, we didn’t burn down the building, and tons of folks came out to fill our little office and the surrounding streets with an abundance of good vibes.

#Eastbaymesslife was an evening of food and drank, short films and sprints.  People gathered at the Emeryville HQ of Pedal Express to help raise money for Spokeland Bike Co-Op and the upcoming alleycat, Endless Summer of Slaughter: The Fantasy Edition. A huge THANK YOU to:

  • Hot Italian for showering us with hot pizzas
  • Chrome for throwing down a grip of awesome prizes
  • Mash SF for contributing some schwag
  • Curbside Creamery for coming through and slangin’ your delicious ice cream (congrats on the new shop!)

Lastly, thanks to all the folks who came out to show love for Pedal Express.  The outpouring of continued support from the community sure does make us feel good 🙂 Stay tuned for more events sponsored by Pedal Express, your friendly neighborhood bike couriers!

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!

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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