So I came home from work today and saw a woman riding a bike loaded to the gills with cardboard boxes on a heavy duty bike trailer. At first I thought it was just another one of the local crazies that rides their bikes from one side of the town to the other all day long, but I’d never seen her before, and if you’ve lived in my town for as many years as I have, you get to know who our crazies are.
I watched her ride her bike around my neighborhood (it’s a small neighborhood) with a bit of a detached interest as I unloaded things from my car. She stopped every now and then, picked a package out of her clown-car-stuffed trailer and dropped it off at various neighbors’ doors.
My first thought was that somebody had started a bike delivery service. I actually had had this thought at one point, but then decided there wouldn’t be much money in it. After a while, my curiosity got the better of me, so I went to investigate.
Turns out, the woman is a UPS driver — a UPS driver at the bottom the totem pole to be more exact. And she was very nice. Apparently, UPS had some bean counters crunch numbers and find out that by replacing a certain number of trucks with bikes in the more temperate winter climates, they could save a boatload of money over the holiday season. In the case of my local UPS district, $36,000 to be exact.
I never got her name, but she said that she only knew for sure that UPS was conducting the program in Oregon, California and Washington. She didn’t seem like she was happy about kind of being forced to do it because of her status as a noob driver, but she said it really wasn’t that bad except for when she had to ride in the hilly parts of town.
She said that she hasn’t had to deal with any rain yet, but that she was worried that when the rain does start it might get pretty ugly for her — although it certainly looks like they’ve outfitted her to deal with bad weather.
I mean, look at that bike, it’s decked out. Check out the camo handwarmers. I’m not sure why they gave her a mountain bike though, it’s not like she’s going off-roading. A commuter bike with some smooth tires and a more comfortable sitting position would have been a much better choice. Methinks they didn’t actually consult with any real cyclists.
You know though… I’m having trouble doing the math. I mean, yeah they can save on fuel by not using the trucks, and certainly it helps cut down on emissions (yay environment!), but using my all-knowing powers of guesstimation, you’d have to make like 10 bike trips to carry the same amount of crap that one of their trucks can. That doesn’t really matter, I guess, if you’re not worried about volume or time, but it seems that a company like UPS is inherently worried about both of those things.
Anyway, I’m not the bean counter with the UPS statistics, so don’t hold me to that analysis. And if UPS is convinced they can save money and help the environment at the same time, so am I!
Admittedly, I’m a little late to this story as UPS announced the program a month or so ago. But it was completely new news to me, and I’m guessing most of you didn’t know about it yet either.
One other perk the UPS bike driver commented on: she has a lot more conversations like the one she had with me today. In that sense, I guess you could say it’s a bit of a community builder too. Imagine if we all had reasons like that to talk with the service people who come and go throughout our busy days.
We might actually start treating each other like human beings.
Photo Credit: The author’s own handiwork. Note that the photo was altered to provide some amount of anonymity to the UPS bike driver. I did ask her if I could take it beforehand.