Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bicycle Delivery Potential in Downtown Spokane

I had lunch with some buddies yesterday at the "High Nooner" downtown. I'm notoriously early for everything. I've learned to always give myself 15 minutes to deal with bike issues. And I rarely have bike issues, so I'm usually early. We were to meet at noon. I got there at 11:50. As I sat outside the 'nooner waiting, I watched the delivery folks run back and forth to their cars. I counted 4 delivery people, but there may have been a fifth. In the 15 minutes I waited (car people are always always late... 5 minutes late, is late ... aren't I an annoying bastard?), I saw two of the 4 return and go out again. This means they are doing some short downtown deliveries.

Downtown Spokane is an ideal bike-delivery area. I sat and waited. My mind churned on the idea of converting the downtown deliveries to bike delivery.

The delivery area: south to the hospitals (8th or so); west to Brown's Addition; North to, say, Indiana; and East to Hamilton or so -- but maybe further east into some of the Industrial Park area off Mission/Trent. Note: no huge hills. In addition, most of this area is traffic-lighted (and timed lights at that), so with fit riders, you're not looking at a huge difference in delivery time.

The bike: a portuer, like Kogswell has just made.

A portuer is based on the design of French bikes made in the early-mid part of the last century. They are optimized for handling a front-load. Front loads for this kind of stuff is nice, so you can see it as you bomb around and it all lays/stacks flat and wide. Notice the big old rack on the front of that bike in the picture. Build a rack like that that fits the little bus tubs that High Nooner packs their lunches into. Make them stackable and you're good to go. Drinks may have to be canned instead of foutain. Instead of a derailleur system, use an 8 speed internal hub for easier maintenance. Dynohub lighting, integrated front wheel lock, and center kickstand would complete the package. An easy-to-ride, park, and lock bike.

The money part: Converting car-drivers to riders is surely cheaper in the "true-cost" sense, but who knows what kind of arrangement "High Nooner" has with their drivers. If they are simply paid an hourly wage to deliver with no compensation for insurance, gas, car maintenance, then the owners would not save money with bikes. But again, looking at "true cost," where those costs are not absorbed by the workers, even with the cost of the bike (around $1200 complete) would pay off in the long run. And if you really wanted to get down to brass tacks, there is a cost to having 4-5 more cars on the road for two hours every work day. That cost is absorbed by all of us in health, taxes, wear/tear on roads, insurance, etc.

By the time my buddies got there and we had ordered and sat down, I pointed out the delivery guys running in and out of the building. (These folks also take precious parking spots in open meters in front of the building as well as in the full parking lot on the side of the building). I mentioned to my buddies that this place should consider converting some of the downtown deliveries to bicycle delivery.

My buddies are used to hearing me mention this kind of stuff -- where everything should be done by bike -- so, I got the courtesy nod and smile and we were onto other matters.


Anonymous said...

very cool idea--i love it!

just a thought...could you substitute a 3-speed internal hub, since it would be cheaper? saves money, and since there aren't any hills, it would be more cost effective than an 8 spd...maybe even a single speed?

Anonymous said...

you know there was bike messenger service though most of the '90's. A guy named Mac was delivering as late 2000 when I opened my coffee shop Joe

John Speare said...

that's weird. b/c as I had lunch with my mom today, she mentioned the same thing. she said the guy she used to see delivering meditcal stuff all over town now owns the "herb farm" out in the valley. sounds like a destination to me.

David Blaine said...

The medical delivery guy "retired" due to health problems. His service was widely used even though he had become inconsistent and unresponsive at times. I actually contemplated taken over the service but discovered that most of his clients had already developed alternative means for delivery. The eroding base of customers was a real concern.
The first bike messenger sevice in Spokane was Jet City owned by two brothers who kept it going for a number of years then sold it to someone who stretched it's life out for the later half of the 90's. They were downtown focused and dealt a great deal with the blueprint copy shop across from High Nooner.
If someone wants to start service I would offer up myself as a temp for fill-in work.

Ken Paulman said...

Eugene, Oregon has a bike delivery service with custom-built utility bikes. They're pretty sweet: