The Craigslist of Bike Courier Services is Cool Model for the Future

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Andy Zimmerman is a 27-year-old Coloradan who sold all his belongings after college, except for his climbing rack, his skis, and his bike. The cash funded his move to Jackson, Wyoming, and his business, BikeWire.

Zimmerman was a river guide for a while, but then it struck him that in a town like Jackson there had to be a more environmentally friendly way of delivering stuff than by truck, especially when the stuff was small — and especially when locals are always riding all over the place, even in the cold of winter.

Which is how BikeWire was born.

Zimmerman figured that if someone was pedaling somewhere anyway or just had some free time and needed some extra cash, why not set up a system to connect them with the folks who needed something delivered? Once a cyclist registers with BikeWire, they’ll receive a text asking if they’re available between X time, to deliver Y thing, to Z location. Whoever responds first gets the work, provided the business and rider can work out a rate.

It’s the Craigslist model, and it also works in reverse. Recently, for example, a willing courier posted that she/he was willing to staple up event posters all over Jackson any time during the weekend from Saturday at 7AM until Monday at 6AM. Their fee: a growler of Paco’s IPA.

While bartering for beer is fun, BikeWire isn’t tiny or frivolous. It’s now in 26 countries and 28 U.S. states, and tools are coming to the website such as an interactive map that shows what’s being delivered and lets riders more finely tailor their range of delivery scope.

More likely it’s going to be a system of random deliveries that drives the BikeWire bus forward, in part because Zimmerman says lots of businesses don’t have a need to employ someone full time for delivery — and they can’t take someone off their floor or out of their office to get something across town, nor do they have a business need for a standard courier service affiliation. “A sandwich shop that doesn’t even do deliveries gets a request to do a bunch of sandwiches for an office, say, and that shop doesn’t deliver. Do they turn down the business, or do they do a BikeWire delivery,” says Zimmerman, who rides a Surly Long Haul Trucker with an Extracycle.

The hard part for Zimmerman is growing his business. He has affiliations with Surly and backcountry.com, plus small events help raise buzz. For instance, BikeWire delivered a full keg of New Belgium beer from Jackson to Teton Village during the Teton Village Music Festival. And to further raise BikeWire’s profile Zimmerman says a small film about BikeWire is hopefully going to get into the outdoor film festival circuit. Still, growth is slow…like pedaling in your granny gear.

“It’s a very simple idea,” Zimmerman says. “Yet people still see it as somehow foreign.”

Change will come, Zimmerman hopes, one bike delivery at a time.

This environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com.

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{ 5 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Andy

    Well maybe it is not catching on because their website is absolutely horrible. It doesn’t even have a page about how it works or what the purpose is.

    Great idea, but it appears the execution is incredibly weak. Plus there is probably confusion with bikewire.net

    • Michael Frank Post author

      Andy, thanks for pointing that out. Andy (Zimmerman) knows this. He’s got the thing in revamp mode so, rest assured, BikeWire 2.0 is coming. We’ll lyk when that happens!

  • anon

    The word “business” seems pretty loosely associated with this enterprise. All-day parties delivering beer, bartering for beer, moving more beer, pedaling the occasional poster or sandwich. All those things are obviously awesome, but this article doesn’t exactly make Mr. Zimmerman sound like entrepeneur of the year. It’d be great if there were more info about the business model from a practical economic standpoint. Is he actually making a living off this?

  • andy zimmerman

    i’ve receive a lot of great feedback/emails from this article – and appreciate everyone’s interest! bikewire is a labor of love for me – no it i don’t make a living off of it and never will – it’s just a concept that should exist in the global cycling community. of course it will take some time to make it sweet, i understand the attention span of most web users, but also the web savvy cycling community. right now we’ve built the foundation to make bikewire both simple, and effective. before winter it will include google map integration, user profiles, an advanced notification system, and much more.

    since bikewire is getting a response in the cycling community/industry, i am clearing my plate a bit so that i can focus more time on it. again, i’m glad everyone’s into the idea, and would love to hear more ideas how you think the website should be! hit ideas to andy@bikewire.org

    sincerely,
    andy z
    entrepreneur of the year 2043

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