Tag Archives: courier

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

 

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Bike to Work Day, ERR Day: an Instagram Alleycat

Bike to Work Day is coming up on Thursday, May 8th.  BTWD is an annual event held during the spring across the United States that promotes cycling as an all-around great way to commute  to work.  There will be Energizer Stations, set up across the Bay Area to provide encouragement, free food, coffee, and schwag to bike commuters.

Coincidentally, this event provides the makings for an interesting DIY alleycat.

I don’t know if anything like this has been done before, so bear with us as we present Bike to Work Day Errday, the first Instagram Alleycat.

Bike to Work Day, ERR Day

How Does it Work?

Energizer Stations will be set up throughout the Bay Area on Bike to Work Day.  The goal of the race is to visit as many as possible.  The person(s) who visits the most Energizer Stations, wins.

Energizer Station

Click here for a map of East Bay Energizer Stations.  And here for a SF map.

How do you know who makes it to a checkpoint?

Simple: Instagram.  You must take a picture at every Energizer Station that you visit, and post it to your Instagram feed (yes, you must have an Instagram account to participate).  In order to be counted, each photo must have three things:

  1. The location
  2. Use the hashtag #btwdERRday
  3. Mention @pedxcourier (so we can tally up the results)

#btwdERRDAY

There will be literally hundreds of Energizer Stations set up across the Bay Area.  Feel free to visit as many (or as few) as you want.  Have fun with it – stop to chat with the volunteers, eat some snacks, drink hella coffee, but don’t forget to ‘Gram!

What else do I need to know?

This is a pretty casual “race.”  There is no starting place and there is no finish line.  The goal is to have FUN while celebrating your favorite mode of transit: the bicycle.

Any and all Energizer Stations from Oakland to Concord to San Francisco are valid checkpoints.  We will keep track of the race via Instagram.

Most Energizer Stations are open from 7am ’til 9am, so this will be the official race time (early bird gets the worm!!) .

There is no entry fee.

There will be an after party at Pedal Express HQ (1501 Powell St, Emeryville) from 5:30 – 7:30pm.  Come through after work and hang out with your favorite bike messengers!  We’ll fire up the grill and have a cooler or two full of beverages; we’ll also hand out spoke cards and announce the winner(s).  We’ll try and rustle up some prizes for ya too (holler at me, if you want to donate).

Emeryville Energizer Station

Anyone down for a full day of bike shenanigans won’t want to miss this.  See you on the streets!

– Dom, Nick, Savanna & Kevin (Pedal Express)

* Later on in the evening, there will be a bike film screening of Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland.  Film starts at 8:30 and is right down the street from us at PLACE for Sustainable Living.  For event info, click here.

Aftermass

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!

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!

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.

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

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!

Image