Even before e-commerce exploded all over the world in the last decade, fast couriers and messenger companies operated in large urban areas. In New York and London, bike messengers have taken on a nearly mythical status as a tough profession that attracts rebels on the fringe. When an architect needed to shoot some drawings over to a client or a print shop needed to send a pack of presentation decks just in time for a board meeting, these brave souls mounted their bikes and dashed across town, weaving in and out of traffic, finding the holes whether that was on the street or sidewalks.
There has even been a few movies about them. Enough of them that someone can write a top 9 list of bike messenger movies! https://www.peacebicycles.com/advice/best-bike-messenger-cycling-movies-fixie
And just as the digital transformation with emails and instant messenger cut down on the number of printed materials, reports and samples that had to dashed from one end of the metropolis to the other, e-commerce came to the rescue. When someone orders a book from a website, a notice goes to a warehouse somewhere, the book is put in a box which is moved to a truck that goes to a distribution central somewhere close to the customer. In suburban or rural areas, a big van can go around a neighborhood and deliver packages like the postmen of past eras, but in dense cities, vans take up too much space. They are slow in traffic and can’t easily be parked at the most convenient place so the driver can rush the package to the eagerly awaiting customer. Here motorcycles, bicycles and, lately, ebikes, are more suitable.
Another industry that has come strong all over the world in later years is the restaurant delivery business. Companies like DoorDash, Foodpanda, UberEats etc. allow consumers to order food from a selection of thousands of restaurants. Delivering hot food puts the pressure on to get the food to the consumer quickly. That means no hub-and-spoke model is possible. Each meal needs to go directly from the restaurant to the consumer. And it has to be done with very narrow margins. Moving a big 2-ton van around to deliver 1 kilo of pizza does not make sense. Add the previously mentioned problem of being able to find a place to park that van close enough to the consumer and it is clear why again motorcycles, bicycles and ebikes, are more suitable.
Thanks to improvements in electric motors and batteries, the ebike now offers superior value compared to other vehicles.
- First and foremost it does not produce nasty soot and carbon dioxide that has to be dispelled out the exhaust hole to plague the driver and general population alike.
- It is quiet. Imagine a future where all vehicles are electric. Oh the silence! We might be able to come to appreciate bird song and the rustle of leaves again.
- They are cheap to propel per kilometer travelled. An ebike will weigh in at about 20 Kg. Just imagine having to push an ebike with a dead battery along for a kilometer or two. Add a full load of groceries in the basket and it gets a bit harder but doable. Now imagine taking that same amount of groceries and put them in a delivery van and now try to push it forward. Hard work indeed. And if you now don’t want to push by hand but turn the motor on, you can imagine how much gas or electricity it will take to move that unnecessary weight around.
- It is easy to park an ebike since it counts just like a bicycle. Wherever a bicycle can go or be parked, the ebike can go.
- Ebikes are relatively affordable. Yes, some ebikes can be expensive to purchase, but with fewer moving parts and low cost of electricity, the total cost of ownership will be very affordable.
Now, what about speed? An ebike can legally drive as fast as 25 kilometers per hour. While this is of course slow compared to the top speed of a car or motorcycle, the fact is that in most cities, congestion means that the average speed from pickup to delivery, seldom if ever exceeds 25kph. This is why the bike messengers in the past could still be competitive. The beauty with an ebike is that with the help of a small electric motor and a tiny little battery that can be swapped or recharged over and over again, the couriers can get the assist they need when they need to go up a hill or go a bit faster. You don’t have to have the stamina of a Tour de France competitor anymore.
So as you can see, ebikes are clearly the best choice for anyone considering to starting a new courier business to do last mile deliveries.