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

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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