“Getting food and other goods to people in the city is as needed now as it ever was.”
— Franklin Jones, B-Line
Out on Portland streets right now you’ll see many people pedaling around for fun and transportation while simultaneously boosting their immune system and mental health. But look closer and you’ll see a cadre of cargo delivery specialists courageously serving our community by bike.
Once again in the midst of disaster the humble bicycle is proving to be nothing short of a live-safer. When I covered Superstorm Sandy from New York City in 2012, bikes emerged as a hopeful, useful tool in a city that had literally gone dark. As our friend Eben Weiss wrote in Outside Magazine yesterday, the oft-maligned bicycle is “the ultimate contingency plan.”
Last week we shared how the PDX Mutual Aid Network was connecting cargo bike owners with delivery orders to bring food and other products to those in need. But far beyond a volunteer cargo bike brigade, Portland’s professional bicycle messengers and pedal-powered cargo delivery companies have remained open despite virus concerns. Just as bike shop owners have kept their doors open to keep people riding, these companies have kept riding to keep people’s doors closed. As more Portlanders choose to stay home, bike messengers have quickly adapted to conditions on the ground and have expanded their scope to bring people what they need.
“We’ll stay out here as long as possible, we are offering a free/pay what you want courier service for groceries, toiletries, medication, or anything really.”
— Ponce Christie, Cascadia Courier Collective
Cascadian Courier Collective offers delivery from over 20 Portland restaurants and a pet supply store. Their delivery zone includes the Central City south to I-405/Division, east to 33rd (or so), and north to Ainsworth and the Willamette Bluff. I checked in with one of their riders, Ponce Christie, in between deliveries the other day. “There’s a lot of uncertainty for everyone right now,” he said.
“We’re doing our best to stay positive and available to help out where we can.”
“So far everyone is healthy and working as they can,” he continued. “We’re offering paid time off for all of our riders and matching pay for everyone who can continue working, just trying to minimize the anxiety for our folks. We’ll stay out here as long as possible, we are offering a free/pay what you want courier service for groceries, toiletries, medication, or anything really.”
Franklin Jones is the owner of B-Line, a company that operates a fleet of human-powered cargo trikes. These mighty, 600-pound capacity vehicles operate from a distribution center in the Central Eastside Industrial District and deliver all types of product to clients citywide. When I reached to Jones, he said his services are are in high demand. “We’re seeing a lot of volatility right now – really strong demand at retail grocers, changing needs and capacities of local producers, and seriously impacted restaurants and offices.”
“Getting food and other goods to people in the city is as needed now as it ever was,” Jones added. With so many unknowns ahead in the local and regional food supply chains, B-Lines will work with a network of partners (which includes New Seasons Market, Organically Grown Company, and many others) to keep goods moving. “We need innovation right now and in a lot of ways, we are in a good position to do that.”
As the grip of home quarantine tightens, Jones thinks B-Lines vehicles might be called into service to deliver groceries to people’s doors. With an eye toward a healthy regional food system, Jones says now is a crucial time to buy locally-sourced food and other products whenever possible.
“Picking up clients mail and taking it to an employees’ houses instead of offices has been a new thing. We think of it as emergency mail forwarding.”
— Dee Branham, Magpie Messenger Collective
Now in their 20th year of delivering by bike, Magpie Messenger Collective has also made big shifts during the outbreak. Magpie is more of a traditional bicycle messenger company that focuses on business-to-business documents in the central city. But rider and co-owner Dee Branham told me with so many people working from home, their routes have changed. “Picking up clients mail and taking it to an employees’ houses instead of offices has been a new thing,” he said. “We think of it as emergency mail forwarding.”
Branham is also watching the U.S tax filing deadline, which was just pushed back to July 15th. Tax-related document jobs this time of year are usually “crazy” Branham said. “If we are moving documents from individual homes to their clients homes instead of a central location, it could get pretty hectic.”
Right now however, Branham says things have been slow for Magpie. “It seems to me it will take a couple weeks for businesses to figure out new work-flows for all their remote staff and get everyone organized,” he said. With Cascadian Courier Collective being so busy with food orders, Branham said he might pick up some shifts with them.
Former messenger Joel Domreis started Courier Coffee Roasters on Southwest Oak and 9th in 2007. He’s maintained the bike-delivery aspect of his business ever since, and now he’s been thrust into the storm of Covid-19.
Despite having closed his doors to customers a few days ago, Domreis shared with me this morning he’s “slammed with new coffee orders.” He said Groceries stores are tripling coffee orders right now. “It would be a good thing if I had more time,” he added. “And I’ve never done online ordering, or Venmo, and there is no way I’m handling cash or cards right now.” As you can read on his daily-updated blog, Domreis is very concerned about the spread of coronavirus. “I have a lot of supplies, but no disposable gloves,” he said. “I am really careful with the product. There is not one single item on the work table at the roastery that has not been soaked or cleaned completely with 99% alcohol.”
As added precautions, Domreis has added clear lab glasses and an N95 respirator mask when he makes deliveries inside stores.
With his cafe closed, Domreis is doing more bike deliveries than ever. “I’m offering to bring eggs, milk, board games, and of course coffee to your house,” he says, “I can also do flour sugar and other items. I just want help anyone who needs it, especially elderly people if they need masks or sanitizer.” Domreis can be reached by phone (503) 545-6444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Portland-based companies offering delivery by bike during the outbreak include Portland Pedal Power, Base Camp Brewing, and Green Bridge Coffee. If you know of any others, please share in the comments.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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