BTA director goes global

Of all the magazines I get, the only one I make a big effort to read each week is The Economist. The Economist is one of the most well-respected publications in the world and it is available on newsstands across the globe. So what does this have to do with bikes?

Well, I was perusing my latest issue when lo-and-behold the name Evan Manvel jumped out at me. Upon closer inspection I was stunned to see a letter to the editor from none other than the Executive Director of our very own Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Here’s the letter:

SIR – Maybe you had an image from “Il Postino” in mind when you said that Mexico’s postal service is inefficient because many letters are delivered by bicycle (“On Mexican time”, March 25th). Many countries, including Germany, use bicycles to deliver mail. They are extremely mobile and efficient in terms of cost, space and energy, and provide healthy exercise to employees. Indeed, companies are rediscovering bicycles, using them to deliver everything from pizzas to security services. Mexico’s mail system may have serious flaws, but the mere use of the bicycle is not one of them.

Evan Manvel
Executive director
Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Portland, Oregon

Kudos to Evan for representin’ bikes and Portland on a global stage. For more info check out Evan’s post about it on the BTA Blog.

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Linda Ginenthal
16 years ago

Evan – Maybe we should be the IBTA (International Bicycle Transportation Alliance). Great job.

Why don’t our own Portland postal employees use bicycles to deliver in those denser neighborhoods here? Has anyone at the City or BTA or another organization ever pursued this with the Postmaster? Just a thought.

Michael Wolfe
16 years ago

Preceding their received correspondance with the honorific “SIR” is one of the more charming affectations of the Economist. Good rag.

16 years ago


Evan is quite right that other countries rely on bikes for quality service. England’s Royal Mail is delivered by a FLEET of over 30,000 bright red bicycles every day. Here are some fun facts I found:

* By 1880 some postmen in Coventry were being paid an extra five shillings a week each to own, maintain and use tricycles.

* In 1882 a Horsham architect designed a mail quincycle with a large central wheel and baskets suspended over pairs of smaller wheels fore and aft. At first it was affectionately known as the, Hen and Chickens but it lost popularity.

* Various trials led to 67 posts, where mail could be collected by bicycle and tricycle owner-riders for delivery, being established by 1895 throughout the country. The Post Office bought its first 100 bikes in 1896 and from then on maintained a national fleet.

* Standard bicycles were introduced in 1929 and the designs remained largely unchanged until 1992, Postal cycles had free-wheels, telegraph cycles had a fixed wheel.

* Royal Mail postmen and women pedal a total of more than a million miles a week equivalent to 40 times round the world or to the moon and back twice.

(From here:

16 years ago

I’m from England, and my mum is a postlady there!

She has been delivering the mail for almost 30 years. Postal delivery by bike seems like the most obvious way to do things.

When I first moved Stateside two years ago, I was astounded to see the post being delivered by car. It seems pretty cumbersome & inefficient & wasteful of resources.

ps – Plus, I have yet to see an out-of-shape postal worker in England!

16 years ago

I’m not a regular Economist reader, so please help me out. What is the significance of the “SIR”? Do they mean Sir as in “Yes, Sir” or does it stand for something?

Michael Wolfe
16 years ago


“SIR” is simply the salutation in letters sent to The Economist. “Dear The Economist” is miserable for all kinds of reasons. “Dear sir” is not exactly appropriate in the context. “To whom it may concern” is inaccurate, as it is known who is concerned. Thus, a polite “SIR,” which, while somewhat archaic, is a polite way to get the attention of the person you are speaking to.

16 years ago

It’s worh noting, also, that a fair percentage of the mail delivered in this country (the good old US of A) is delivered by foot – by a walking postal employee – which is considerably less effecient than a bicycle (and much healthier/environmentally friendly than delivering it by car).

But this might all be so much about not very much: The Economist has a perpetual spur up its bum.


Robert Ping
16 years ago

Yesterday we were walking around the Woodstock neighborhood and noticed many signs on mailboxes warning residents not to park within 15 feet of the box. This particular postperson will not deliver to you if a vehicle (even a construction vehicle) is parked within 15 feet of the box. Now on a bicycle or on foot, this wouldn’t be an issue. It would also be a lot cheaper, cleaner and friendlier.