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Vancouver Trending: City is embracing pedal-powered delivery

Demand for non-traditional bike delivery service is on the rise in Vancouver.

The Shift Delivery team plan to have a fleet of 10 delivery trikes operating by the end of May.

Courtesy Moriah Inkster

The Shift Delivery team plan to have a fleet of 10 delivery trikes operating by the end of May.

On any given day in Vancouver, Shift Delivery cyclists are zipping across the city on cargo trikes, delivering everything from office supplies to produce. The Food Pedalers are biking their locally grown micro-greens to grocery stores, restaurants, and private residences. And the Breakfast Courier cyclists are delivering breakfasts, made to order, to customers' doorsteps.

Vancouver's environmentally conscious citizens seem to be spurring on the city's interest in bike-centric businesses. Demand for their pedal-powered services has been growing steadily, according to Shift Delivery (shiftdelivery.ca) co-owner Ben Wells, who founded the co-op with Robyn Ashwell.

“(Shift) was born out of a desire to improve conditions in the downtown core, to reduce pollution, and to find creative ways of using alternative transportation," Wells said, adding that cargo trikes have a capacity of up to 500 pounds, similar to a medium-sized SUV.

Shift partners with businesses ranging from SPUD to Tacofino, offers a recycling program with Recycling Alternative for members of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, and also hosts mobile advertising. Responding to increased demand, they are adding three more trikes to their fleet for a total of 10 by the end of May.

The Food Pedalers (foodpedalers.ca ) a micro-greens bicycle delivery co-op, has also seen exponential growth.

"Last year was our best on record, " said Ross Jarvis, a member of the co-op crew along with Jaymie Johnson and founder Chris Thoreau. The company grows micro-greens like sunflower, buckwheat and radish shoots year round in its repurposed- shipping-container greenhouse. Greens are harvested in the morning and delivered in the afternoon, ensuring maximum freshness.

Vancouver’s mild climate and expanding bicycle lanes and infrastructure mean that bicycle delivery makes sense not only from an environmental perspective, but also from an economic one. Bicycles are cheap and fast, the "capital needed for buying and maintaining a bicycle is substantially less than a car, and we never need to pay for parking," said Jarvis.

Innovation abounds in Vancouver's bicycle delivery businesses. For instance, the Breakfast Courier (breakfastcourier.com) offers customizable menu items, delivering a hot breakfast via bicycle. Cartems Donuterie (cartems.com) has a Dutch cargo bike for deliveries of a dozen gourmet donuts or more in the downtown core, and Nice Pops (nicepopsyvr.com) delivers handmade ice pops by bike.

As Jarvis put it, using bikes "really is the most efficient way for us to carry out our deliveries, and it's clear we're not alone judging from the growing numbers of businesses choosing bikes." Wells echoes this sentiment. Sustainable, zero-emission businesses like bicycle delivery can be practical and productive.

“You just need creativity and initiative," he said.

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