By Brittni Rubin
In recent years, cities have been proactively alleviating congestion in heavily populated areas by creating bike-friendly streets and alleyways. Commercial fleets, delivery companies and courier services have been taking advantage, using bicycles in certain situations for tasks previously done by car or truck.
When Biking Makes Sense
When it doesn’t make sense to use a motor vehicle — such as for local or small-parcel deliveries — a bike or two could prove extremely handy.
Andrew Brown, founder and owner of PeakEx Towing & Transportation, recently purchased a fleet of bicycles for his business. After accumulating a consistent surplus of small-parcel deliveries, his routes were taking a long time to complete.
He bought bikes simply because he was tired of sitting in trucks day in and day out; however, he found that the monetary success pedal-powered vehicles brought his company was worth opening a second branch: PeakEx Bike Deliveries.
“Having bikes saved me more than $3,000 in gasoline this summer alone,” Brown said. “I’m satisfying my fleet’s needs in a different way, and saving money and energy in the process.”
Accessibility is also a key, since bikes can travel where no car or truck can. Their size and agility permit off-roading or taking shortcuts through alleyways.
Bicycles used in a business can help save on more than just fuel expenses. Bikes reduce wear and tear on an existing fleet and lower expenses such as vehicle licensing and registration, insurance, damage repairs and parking tickets.
According to Wenzday Jane, owner of Massachusetts bike delivery service Metro Pedal Power, some courier companies budget thousands of dollars a year just to pay back parking tickets.
In Brown’s experience cultivating customer satisfaction over the past few years, he finds that people now expect some degree of environmental efforts from the companies they do business with. Having a green delivery option gives companies an instant green stamp and a competitive edge over those who don’t.
In addition to attracting environmentally minded customers, green initiatives attract a specific type of employee as well. “Companies who do some of their work by bikes where they can instead of cars tend to be more fun, and interest young, vibrant, creative types who know a thing or two about energy conservation and are passionate about the environment,” Jane said. “That is a primary plus.”[PAGEBREAK]
James William Gregory, owner of Bikes At Work, a bike delivery service that also manufactures trailers and attachments for other bike-using companies, summed up the eco-friendly benefits: “Bikes are silent, space-efficient, require relatively few resources to make and are easily recycled. The only air pollution produced is the rider’s breath.”
And just as the health of the environment is improving with bikes, the driver’s health is too. Employees are encouraged to exercise and challenge their stamina on a regular basis when they are biking, according to Jane.
How Bikes Are Used
Metro Pedal Power has been contracted by distributors, districts, wholesalers, universities and office supply stores like Staples and beyond to provide deliveries — both small and large — in their surrounding area.
With the transporting equipment like trailer attachments available, delivery bike can perform many of the same tasks as motor vehicles. For example, Bike At Work’s recyclable trailers are sizable and relatively light-weight. They make it possible to transport large packages or package quantities that bikes would not otherwise be able to handle.
The company also makes custom trailers or attachments in any shape or size for specific duties. With these trailers, a single person can transport something as heavy as a full-size washer and dryer in just one trip.
Bikes at Work has even invented a “Human Load Calculator” available on its website, which produces surprising results about how much weight one person can actually haul via bicycle. The calculator takes speed, rider’s weight, the weight of the bike and trailer, and the grade at which the rider will climb into consideration to generate an approximate cargo weight a person can carry.
The Cost Factor
Fleets have two options: They can buy the bikes and employ their own riders, or use a professional bike service. Many delivery bikers tend to work as subcontractors and can use their own bicycles, though Brown recommends providing them with company equipment so staff can circumvent maintenance issues in-house and ensure that riders are using the safest and fastest bicycles available.
Besides, month-to-month maintenance required for bicycles is straight-forward, making in-house maintenance fairly easy, which also saves tremendously on cost.
A bike and trailer costs less than 1/10 the cost of the least-expensive economy car. A good quality mountain or hybrid bike is priced somewhere between $400 and $1,000. Bike At Work’s largest trailer for hefty loads is priced at $570, while their smallest is priced around $400.