Cascadian Courier Collective steps through changes in the delivery business – BikePortland
Where are all the delivery bikers in Portland?
That’s a question I asked myself upon returning from my recent trip to New York and several European cities, where bike deliverers flood the streets carrying large insulated bags on their backs or bike racks with food in tow. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but after my trip, Portland’s lack of bike suppliers struck me. Grocery delivery has exploded in popularity during the pandemic and is not going away anytime soon. So how can we ensure that more of these trips take place by bike?
Portland Is Home to several companies that specialize in delivering goods by bike, including trucking company B-Line Urban Delivery (which we recently featured on the BikePortland podcast), catering truckers Portland Pedal Power, and grocery delivery company Cascadian Courier Collective PDX (CCC PDX). CCC PDX is the closest organization to bike deliveries I’ve seen in other cities, so I decided to ask them for an update on the status of local bike deliveries.
Cascadian Courier Collective (the other CCC)
CCC PDX was founded in Eugene a decade ago and began operations in Portland in 2017. But the company grew significantly during the pandemic, as demand for home deliveries skyrocketed and created a new need for bike deliveries. According to owner Ponce Christie, customers and business owners who use delivery apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub are discovering the limitations of those services, which charge both consumers and restaurants hefty fees.
Fees got so out of hand that the city of Portland imposed a temporary cap on which third-party apps restaurants could charge — 10% of the total order cost — but that rule wasn’t always followed. In January, the Portland City Council approved a permanent fee cap of 15% of the total amount of a grocery delivery order. But CCC PDX can give you one more kick: Christie said they’ve always had a 10% fee and have no plans to increase it.
“All of a sudden, everyone was trying delivery apps for the first time and realizing how awful they are,” Christie told BikePortland in a phone call earlier this week. “I think our business has grown about 1000% which is obviously very crazy because we are a small company. It was difficult to get used to.”
But they’ve adapted, hiring dozens of new couriers and nurturing relationships with restaurants that like the local vibe, low fees and eco-friendly approach to food delivery.
“There are a lot of really great local restaurant owners who are frustrated with apps and see the value in working with a local business,” Christie said. “And in general, our customers are pretty loyal. As soon as they hear about us they seem pretty excited about the idea and want to come back and try again.”
out for delivery
Yesterday afternoon I rode around Northeast Portland with Zak who has been doing bike deliveries with CCC PDX for about six months. The job was to deliver packages from meal kit company Farm to Fit to people’s homes, and Zak upgraded from the standard road bike he keeps for smaller deliveries to one of CCC’s Bullitt cargo bikes to fit everything . The bike didn’t have electric assistance, but Zak maneuvered it impressively through the busy streets of Hollywood District and then up Alameda Ridge, dropping off packages along the way.
For many of the same reasons, a bike is a great tool for everyday transportation, it’s also a very handy delivery device. You avoid the traffic and the time-consuming search for a parking space in front of the restaurants and delivery houses. Riding a bike all day is also fun: you get lots of exercise and you can connect with your community. But I think the most compelling reason to deliver by bike rather than car is that you keep more of the money you make by not having to pay for gas or car maintenance.
“It’s been nice not paying attention to gas prices for the last six months,” Zak told me. “If I were to deliver with a car, all the money I made would just go back into the car.”
Zak was fun to ride around, although I have to admit I didn’t envy him for lugging around so much stuff, especially on a non-electric bike. But Zak was in a good mood the whole time.
“I didn’t have many jobs that I liked,” Zak said. “But I really like doing it.”
I asked my roommate Patrick Riley, who used to drive for DoorDash, about his delivery time and he had a very different perspective.
“It’s not a pleasant job,” Patrick said. “Most of it is trying to figure out where to park and go somewhere else and figure out where to park there.”
The Cost of Convenience
One of the core beliefs of CCC’s business philosophy is that people don’t always need everything right away. But that’s a tricky business model in the age of Amazon Prime’s same-day deliveries and 20-minute waits on Uber Eats. People are no longer used to waiting. But Christie pointed out that for deliveries within a mile or two, it’s often quicker to bike than drive.
“I think a lot of people’s argument against delivering bikes is that it takes so long. But most of the time it takes us about the same time to deliver as a car,” he said.
With CCC, Christie also wants to encourage people to look at options closer to where they live within a reasonable range for bike delivery.
“I think it’s wrong to be able to order food from a place more than three miles away at any time with the push of a button because the app says it’s convenient,” Christie said. “If you live in Portland, there are probably 20 other restaurants within a mile that could support you. That’s one of the great things here.”
It’s one of the reasons CCC hasn’t gotten used to the electric bike revolution: they don’t want to set speed standards that are too high. But in cities like New York, the bike delivery industry is largely thriving on electric bikes (although this has sparked controversy after several cheap e-bike batteries unfortunately caught fire while charging in apartment complexes). If more people in Portland had access to e-bikes, I think it would open up the career path for people less enthusiastic about pedaling up Portland’s steepest hills with a heavy cargo bike full of packages. If Oregon passes an e-bike rebate law, might we be entering a new era of bike messengers?
I would love to see a renewed bike delivery culture in Portland. It would mean fewer cars on the streets (and fewer Uber Eats drivers parking in bike lanes, which I see fairly regularly) and a connection to our amazing local restaurants would be a great way to revitalize Portland’s bike scene.
To encourage this, I think the most important step is to make urban cycling easier for any purpose – the places around the world where bike delivery works best are also the places where cycling does is most widespread. And as the Portland Bureau of Transportation works on its 2040 freight plan, maybe they can consider ways to incentivize last-mile and grocery delivery by bike.
Right now you can help support the movement by ordering directly from 16 local outlets through the CCC website.
Taylor has been a BikePortland employee since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact them at email@example.com