On this site, we often focus on what large multinational corporations, cleantech ventures, or even governments are doing. But sometimes, some of the most interesting and innovative projects happen on a much smaller scale. In almost every major metropolis, bike messengers have been institutions for a long time. However, in recent years – responding to increases in both gas prices and consciousness for personal health and the environment – bike-based businesses have been springing up across the country.
“I think the recent explosion in biking is both a return on our communities’ investments in encouragement programs and infrastructure – bike lanes, paths, bike boulevards, etc. – and a sign of increasing concern about economics, health, and the environment,” said Stephanie Noll, the City of Portland’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance Programs Manager.
If you think about it, “concern about economics, health, and the environment” is another way of talking about Triple Bottom Line ethics, and for many of these small business owners, thinking about these issues in conjunction is making more and more sense. And these business owners are bringing this thought process to the local, community level.
To name just a few examples, businesses range from various food delivery services, the bar pictured above, house cleaners, handymen, and pedi-cab services across the country from Boston to Denver to Seattle, which haul passengers willing to forego their motor-driven counterparts.
“When we worked on our business plan, gas prices were low. We did a full price analysis that looked at cars, zip cars, scooters, electrical cars, etc. and for the price and brandability of those, bikes came out way ahead. There’s a low up front, low maintenance costs, and you don’t have to worry about gas prices fluctuating,” says Jed Lazar, owner of Portland-based Soupcycle. Soupcycle is a bicycle-based, organic soup delivery service.
For other companies, being bike-based is just another part of being a green or socially-conscious entrepreneur. Take Toronto, Ontario-based ChocoSol Traders. Not only does it deliver all of its organic, fair-trade chocolates to customers by bicycle, it also supports communities of Mexican laborers by having helped create and maintain a cooperative of workers, providing them with fair wages and improved working conditions. At the same time, nearly all of ChocoSol’s employees embrace the cycling ethic and commute to work on their bikes. They even have converted bicycle power to run some of the chocolate churning machines in their factory.
Q19* is another one of those do-gooder companies that has incorporated bicycles into their business model (*Site is under construction). The Portland-based cleaning-service uses only 100% ecological and petrochemical-free cleaning agents.
“Q19 came about out of a local property management firm’s need for an accountable, high quality, consistent service provider… Utilizing Bakfiets, or Dutch work bikes, became a vital way to achieve all of our objectives- creating happy, healthy, empowered work environments, limiting our impact on the environment, and building a financial viable company,” says Hannah Sandmeyer, Q19’s Managing Director.
Readers: If you know of any other cool company that utilizes cycle power, let us know!