Tag Archives: environmentalism

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!)

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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!

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