Tag Archives: Cargo

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

De Fietskoerier Utrecht: “The Utrecht Bicycle Messengers”

By Dominic Lucchesi

The Netherlands

Continuing our look at Bicycle Courier Companies worldwide, this entry takes us to the Netherlands.   A country known for it’s extensive network of bicycle paths and facilities, the Netherlands appears to be a cyclist’s dream.  27% of the country’s trips are made by bicycle – this figure jumps to 59% in its cities (for context, the bike mode share in Oakland is 1.8%; in Berkeley, it’s 8.0%).  So, you can see why we’d be interested to know what life is like for a bicycle courier in that part of the globe.

Utrecht

Some time ago, I chatted with Tobias of De Fietskoerier Utrecht (The Utrecht Bicycle Messengers).  Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands.  Interestingly, due to its central location, Utrecht is an important hub for the country’s rail and road transport.   It’s also been the religious center of the Netherlands since the 8th Century.  Neat.

A super cool dude, here’s what Tobias had to say about his profession:

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

We are “De Fietskoerier Utrecht” (translated as “TheUtrecht Bicycle Messengers”) and as our name says, we operate in Utrecht and around.  In January 2014 we celebrate[d] our tenth birthday.  

Can you give us an example of a typical delivery and an atypical delivery?

Difficult, we really do everything.  A lot of work to and from the chamber of commerce and the courthouse, furthermore a lot of design companies and printing companies.  A growing amount of medical deliveries, such as blood, medicines (and sometimes  even a lung).  As well, people call us to send boxes to Mexico, for now we only do the first few kilometers on bicycle…

What kind of bike(s) do you use?

Mostly fixed gear, but also regular racing bikes, single speeds, MTBs and cargo bikes (Bullitt). Also, we have a solar powered electric car for larger deliveries.

Any on-the-job challenges that you may face?

5 different messengers on the road on the same time can be a challenge to manage, however, in the end it always works out fine.

How many riders are in your crew?

We are a collective with 9 owners. Furthermore a group of about 8 freelancers help us out .

What does the future hold for the bicycle courier industry?

More work, also more work in between cities, with for example a train or car in between. 

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: De Fietskoerier Utrecht!

Click here for a short intro movie for the De Fietskoerier Endurance Team.
"A picture of the team just after the World Championships bicycle racing in the Netherlands last year"
“A picture of the team just after the World Championships bicycle racing in the Netherlands last year”
"A picture of our solar powered electric car with messenger Gijs"
“A picture of our solar powered electric car with messenger Gijs”

Lastly, for bicycle courier service in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, make sure to check out the crew at Pedal Express!

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.

1911-adamsexpress-messengers

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

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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