5 Reasons for a Bike Delivery Resurgence in Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Hi, I’m Christine! I’m the BikePGH Business Relationship Manager. I’m addicted to coffee, my bikes’ names are Esmerelda and Sparky, and I’m the mother of a 3 y/o. I would love to see MORE bike deliveries here in Pittsburgh. Keep on reading below for my top 5 reasons why we should see a resurgence.

Gone are the glory days of the bicycle messenger.

…or are they?

The bike messenger was birthed pretty much simultaneously with the invention of the bike itself. While the industry took a hit with the advent of email, I see the beginning of a glimmer of resurgence through food delivery services. Here in Pittsburgh, those are largely contained to Jimmy Johns, and third-party delivery services (think Uber Eats, Postmates, GrubHub, and Door Dash). But Jet Messenger on the North Side is still kicking, and Green Distributions delivers all of BikePGH’s event posters and flyers around town, and La Prima has their awesome coffee bike. 

Here are 5 reasons why we should have more bike deliveries:

1. E-Commerce 

With the increase of e-commerce shipping, package delivery services have had to get creative with ways to keep costs and carbon emissions down. FedEx announced in February that it was going to pilot a program to optimize Ground and Express deliveries for the first and last mile. And in 2017, UPS made Pittsburgh the second city in the nation to receive a UPS cargo e-bike and the first to implement a year-round route using the “Cargo Cruiser”.

2. Pittsburgh really isn’t that big

The city of Pittsburgh is only 12 miles from Summer Hill to Lincoln Place, 14 miles from Fairywood to East Hills. From point A to point B, no neighborhood within the city limits is more than a 2-hour bike ride away. And, let’s face it, no Pittsburgher’s going to cross that many rivers on the regular. With more than 40% of car trips less than 3 miles, I suspect that so should the majority of deliveries, or a simple 15 min bike ride — which, in many cases, makes delivery by bike a FASTER option on top of a healthier one. And that will only improve as the Bike+ Plan rolls out.

3. Do it for yourself; do it for your neighbors

Riding a bike is a fun and healthy way to get around, not just for the rider. We’ve all read the articles about Pittsburgh’s terrible air quality. Bikes are an easy, comparably inexpensive solution to a carbon emissions problem that simply doesn’t need to be. Period.

4. E-bikes Exist

“But the hills!!!!!” I know more than one of you is thinking it so loudly I can hear it from my house. E-bikes have exploded all over Europe, and they’re starting to make their way here to the US. Pedal-assist help from an e-bike will make Pittsburgh’s unique terrain much more surmountable for even those of us more casual riders. They’re an investment, for sure, but a steal compared to the average cost of car ownership on an annual basis. If I’ve piqued your interest, you should absolutely visit one of our lovely local bike shops (after COVID-19 business restrictions have lifted and they’re back up for sales) to take one for a test spin and an e-bike that suits your needs!

5. Keeping it Local

The COVID-19 pandemic is going to hit our small businesses hardest. Many local restaurants and breweries have adapted their services to stay in business and feed the community safely via takeout and delivery options. Delivery bikes are cheaper than delivery cars. And the work could be done either in-house or by neighborhood delivery dispatches, without a huge hit into the profit margins of fledgeling businesses working hard to establish themselves

For one town near Tampa, a fireman’s heroic actions extend beyond his day job. His network of volunteers on two wheels are keeping the restaurant takeout business alive, and their neighbors fed. The Heights Citizen Bicycle Brigade is delivering food, free of charge, to those who request delivery by bicycle. I love this.

So let’s do it!

With fewer people commuting to work right now, and more people getting things like food and beer delivered, now seems like a perfect time to experiment. And we need to be experimenting and adapting to stay afloat in “these uncertain times.” Once we fall in love with bicycles delivering our food, we will return to them to deliver everything!

Posted by Christine Yockel

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