U.P.S. seems like a smart company. Fuel costs money, so they’re constantly looking for ways to use less fuel. Every holiday season brings a huge surge in deliveries, which this year they’re handling in part by adding bicycles to their fleet:
> Of course, each U.P.S. bike delivery system (typically a $350 mountain bike pulling a custom trailer) can haul only 15 to 20 packages per trip — a mere fraction of what a truck can deliver. Nonetheless, the company estimates that for every three bikes deployed during peak season on the West coast, it will save around 17 gallons of fuel per day and about $38,000 dollars in vehicle maintenance costs.
Bike geeks might notice that the two-wheeler in the picture above comes complete with pogies, the loose set of mittens that fit entirely over the brakes and gear shifters to protect riders’ hands in cold weather. Other gear includes, of course, a nice kickstand and a sturdy-looking trailer. The only surprise is that the whole ensemble isn’t painted brown.
> Said [a company spokesman]: “It’s first and foremost an operational effort. Every package that U.P.S. delivers today comes with a time guarantee so we’ve got to make our deliveries,” he said. “It clearly has environmental benefits and we’re excited by those, but it works in part because you’ve got heavy volume going into residential neighborhoods.”
Man-on-the-scene Nick Chambers talked to a UPS rider and was told that one perk of the program is community building: the bicycle tends to facilitate a lot more conversations delivery people and customers or passersby.
All of this leads me to wonder: firemen have long filled the role of neighborhood sex symbols. Are newly visible UPS riders poised to steal their crown?
**Update:** BikePortland has a fun video interview with one of the U.P.S. riders. The most interesting nugget is that, for this rider at least, bicycles are far more productive than U.P.S. anticipated. The company hoped riders could deliver 25-50 packages per day. In this video, Tina is set to do closer to 100.
Another tidbit: many have assumed that the bikes must operate in a fairly close range to U.P.S. delivery hubs. But in fact trucks take the packages out to riders’ homes, which then act as regional mini-hubs. Clever.