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Bike Messengers Branch Out

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And next, let's report on a species that seems to be nearing extinction: the bicycle messenger. With businesses and courts accepting more documents by electronic transfer, the need for messengers has been shrinking. So bike messengers want to reinvent their business with larger bikes. Cyrus Farivar reports.

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CYRUS FARIVAR: If you spend any time in San Francisco's financial district, you'll quickly see scruffy bikers whizzing by. They're part of the fabric of the city, like taxis in New York. But they're a dwindling breed, and three courier companies here have gone under in the last two years.

But since January, there's been a new bike-messengering company that's bucking the trend: Cricket Courier.

Wendy LaReese(ph) is one of the founders of Cricket Courier, a new cooperative bike-messengering service. She says that while she's mostly just carrying business envelopes these days, she has big ambitions.

Ms. WENDY LaREESE (Founder, Cricket Courier): You can carry a bed. We just need the right kind of bike to get it done.

FARIVAR: While no companies here are delivering beds by bike just yet, Whole Foods is currently considering using bicycle deliveries in two of its Bay Area stores. And while carrying big bags of heavy groceries may not be easy, the company believes that a bike delivery service could work, says Adesina Stewart of Whole Foods.

Ms. ADESINA STEWART (Whole Foods): It's fun for the team members that work in that store. And then for customers, it really raises the awareness that your groceries have a carbon footprint, whether you come and pick them up or we bring them to you. If it's on a bike, that footprint is reduced.

FARIVAR: Stewart says Whole Foods is looking at a cargo bike to make this work. It's got a longer and sturdier heavy steel frame and a rear rack to carry more stuff. The bike is designed to carry over 400 pounds of weight.

Another company that's incorporating bikes is Zipcar. The car-sharing company is now using bikers here in the San Francisco Bay Area and other markets nationwide to check up on its fleet of cars. Apparently, the company is saving gas so you can burn more.

In the end, bikes are largely getting more attention because of those pesky gas prices, and that just might have a renewing effect on the messengering industry. Jeremiah Steele(ph) is a bike messenger in the San Francisco.

Mr. JEREMIAH STEELE (Bike Messenger, San Francisco): With fuel prices going the way they are, for inner-city deliveries, bicycles may start becoming a more economical option for a lot of shorter-distance things.

FARIVAR: But until the industry gets that kick-start, Steele remains part of a small but proud legion of couriers that will do whatever it takes so that they can be out on the street instead of holed up in an office. For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar.

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INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cyrus Farivar
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