The last month has been one of confusion, panic, sore muscles, frigid fingers, sweat, and overall exhilaration—my first month delivering for B-line. I knew when I accepted the job that I would be mentally and physically challenged. As I sit here now, thinking about tomorrow’s deliveries, I must consider the possibility that it will be the most challenging day of my days as a rider to date. However, it is far more likely that the day will bring me peace, fresh air, serenity, and a crisp awareness of the inner strength that, while eating breakfast, I did not know I possessed.
Every so often, when the weather bites, or whips, or lashes, and I’m sitting on my trike stuck in traffic because this particular through-street doesn’t have a bike lane, I wonder why are we doing this? This lunacy: riding a converted pedi-cab pulling up to 700 pounds of cargo and an 80 pound battery through slush, wind, and rain. Then I breathe in the air around me—the exhaust from idling automobiles and delivery trucks, and I remember why.
Nine months ago, I walked across the stage at Arizona State University and awkwardly shook the Dean of the School of Sustainability’s hand and accepted my diploma (I was the first on the list to walk and wasn’t sure of the tempo or that I had to stop and pose for a photo op). My degree was in Sustainable Urban Dynamics, a focus that emphasized the importance of sustainable land-use planning, local and regional economics, mixed-use development, and my favorite topic, diverse and equitable mobility.
Diverse mobility means that people have options. They have the option to take viable and efficient public transportation, they have the option to walk or ride their bikes and not feel threatened by traffic, and they have the option to drive. Equitable mobility means that every neighborhood, regardless of average income, ethnicity, height, etc. within the city limits has the same transportation options. In order for people in cities to be healthy and happy, the options mentioned above must be available to all.
B-line is taking it one step further; creating a different option not for people to get from point A to point B, but for goods. Goods that we urbanites enjoy every day: produce, bread, coffee, office supplies, bike parts, and so on can be transported to us in the same way we like to transport ourselves. They can be delivered in a way that doesn’t taint the streets of the city with pollution. Nor do B-line riders clog up traffic by searching for a place to park and unload, nor endanger the lives of pedestrians. In the time we have been in operation, we have never injured a single pedestrian. Could you say that about delivery trucks?
So far my glorious yet challenging days as a rider have aided me in recognizing just how much work is necessary for people to live truly sustainable lifestyles. Meticulously cleaning and sorting all of your trash into the appropriate bin, riding an hour through rain to get to work, delivering coffee and produce via leg-power is not the easiest way to go about life. Living this way also isn’t cheap; for example, buying a cramped LEED-certified home in the city rather than the semi-mansion out in the suburbs, purchasing organic and ethically sourced products rather than the cheapest product on the shelf—these choices are definitely more draining on your bank account. However, these shifts, as difficult or expensive as they may be, are necessary if we want to ensure that future generations enjoy the same amenities as we do (amenities meaning unadulterated natural resources like water, air, and soil).
B-line fits into the sustainability paradigm perfectly. It is not the easiest thing to do: dealing with harsh weather as well as the sheer physical duress. It is also not the cheapest service; our clients could choose to use the traditional, more established and less expensive forms of delivery. However, what we do increases the desirability of our city. It equates to a cleaner city and a safer city. It is with that glimmer of hope that we ride forth – rain or shine – each and every day.