Portland embraces cargo bike’s ability to deliver the goods

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

 

1210_ATS05
A Metrofiets cargo bike commissioned by Perpetua Wood Floors in Portland. // Photo courtesy of Metrofiets

Joel Grover worked at the Bike Gallery in Portland for more than 20 years before he decided to set up Splendid Cycles on his own in May, selling nothing but cargo bikes.

Limiting your shop to extra-long bicycles built to haul hundreds of pounds of groceries, tools and/or kids may seem like a strange niche, given the amount of work required. But it’s an area of opportunity in Portland, which has gone from a handful of cargo bikes to hundreds in a few years.

Grover says between young families going car-free, out-of-state orders (especially from California) and small companies rushing to brand themselves local and sustainable, business has been strong; he lost money in the first month but has made money in every month since. He’s using his earnings to buy top-of-the-line merchandise from around the globe, including bikes built locally by Ahearne Cycles and Metrofiets.

Metrofiets founders Phillip Ross and Jamie Nichols work out of a small garage on NE Alberta Street crammed full of ancient tools and vintage bicycles. Ross, a 40-year-old former research librarian, and Nichols, a 29-year-old self-described “iron monger,” specialize in cargo bikes designed to last 100 years, with aircraft-grade steel from Dillsburg Steel in Pennsylvania and headsets built in Portland by Chris King Components. At 68 pounds, their bike is 30 pounds lighter than the Dutch bikes that first caught on in Portland in 2008.

Ross and Nichols earned local fame for designing a party bike that hauls a beer keg for Hopworks Urban Brewery and a café-on-wheels that Trailhead Coffee Roasters owner Charlie Wicker pedaled for all 425-plus miles of Cycle Oregon. But they aren’t just selling locally. One Metrofiets bike is soon to be shipped to Australia, and Ross is traveling to Colorado to custom-design another. They plan to add staff in 2011 to crank out standard models.

“We’re growing exponentially,” says Nichols.

“It’s crazy to keep up with,” adds Ross.

It’s a similar situation at B-Line sustainable urban delivery on SE Alder Street. Founder Franklin Jones, a former California schoolteacher, launched the company in 2009 after traveling extensively in the dense cities of Europe and Asia.

Demand for bike deliveries picked up substantially in January 2010, and Jones was able to hire his friend and business adviser, Randy Koch, a freight logistics consultant and former president of GE’s CommerceGuard division.

Koch says he likes the cargo bike business model because it works. For businesses shipping small amounts to multiple points in the urban core, “We’re simply cheaper and quicker.”

Jones and Koch have grown the company to 10 employees and 15 Portland clients including Whole Foods, Eco Dry Cleaner and Organically Grown. They also have launched a program to pick up soon-to-expire produce from local food stores and bring it to nonprofits that feed the hungry.

Next year they plan to add two new vehicles to the fleet and pick up new clients. They are also looking into expanding into new cities such as Eugene, Seattle and San Francisco.

BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

Up in the Air

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON

Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.


Read more...

Undersea Power

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes first came up with the idea of an ocean power device 23 years ago, when they were students at Oregon State University. They realized a long-held vision last summer, when their startup, M3 Wave, successfully launched the first ocean power device that works underwater.


Read more...

6 things to know about the Amtrak Cascades route

The Latest
Friday, May 22, 2015
thumb3BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The recent tragedy in Philadelphia has called attention to Amtrak and the nation's woefully underfunded rail service. Here are six facts about the Amtrak Cascades corridor between Eugene and Vancouver B.C. 


Read more...

The Green Paradox

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY EMILY LIEDEL

Inside the topsy-turvy world of corporate sustainability rankings.


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...

Intrepid reporter checks out ZoomCare rebrand

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
dentistthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes. 


Read more...

Green workplace 2.0

Linda Baker
Thursday, May 28, 2015
IMG 2808BY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Reinventing capitalism. Office dumpster divers. Handprints versus carbon footprints.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS