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PedX riding high after 10 years

By Gwendolyn Mickelson

Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 1, 2004

SANTA CRUZ - You may have seen them pedaling around town with their trailers in tow, making a mockery of rush-hour traffic.

Started by environmental advocates as a demonstration project, Pedaler's Express (PedX for short), a Santa Cruz-based bicycle messenger service, has transformed itself into a viable business and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Founded in 1994 by cross-country in-line skater Bill LeBon and bicycle advocate Micah Posner, PedX began with an investment of $300 and the idea of proving that bicycles could deliver freight and were a versatile and viable delivery tool that didn't require fossil fuel-burning vehicles and didn't cause pollution, traffic accidents and the resulting reduced quality of life.

LeBon and Posner have moved on to other projects, but the five bicycle messengers that make up the collectively-owned PedX are out daily, delivering pastries, government documents, newspapers, bagels, mail, legal papers, lunches, diskettes, auto parts, groceries, medication and gourmet cheeses. They'll even deliver a refrigerator.

"What they found was that there was a real environmental niche of green-friendly businesses that wanted to hire bicycle messengers just because it's pollution-free delivery," said Rick Graves, an owner-partner and the promotions director. "We started out with companies like New Leaf Community Markets and moved on from there."

New Leaf is still a customer. Other clients include Bookshop Santa Cruz, Beckmann's Old World Bakery, the city of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Though the company began as a pollution-free alternative, its goal has expanded to becoming a competitive player in the market.

"The paradigm has shifted slightly more to an emphasis on reliability and professionalism, and being able to provide whatever services the company needs, rather than saying, 'We think you need this environmental feather in your hat, how would you like to spruce up your image by hiring us,' and then not really bringing up the bottom line," said Graves. "We've gotten our efficiency and professionalism down to a rate where we can help companies' bottom lines no matter what their political stance is."

Rex Stewart, the general manager and co-owner of New Leaf, said his company has been with PedX for at least eight years. He said PedXers deliver New Leaf's inter-office mail, function as a grocery shopping and delivery service and do some food transportation.

"Anything that can take a car off the road, in this county in particular, is a good thing," Stewart said. "And their level of professionalism matches our expectations. It's been fun to watch them grow and mature over the years, as we have also. I feel like we've kind of grown up together."

Another client, Shirley Trimble of Wild Iris Organics, said it's not just PedX's environmental principles but also its personal touch that makes the service worthwhile to her business.

"They act as a liaison with all the stores I do business with," she said. "There are always little issues that can help a product sell better, and they give me really great feedback."

As the company looks to the future, its members say they would like to continue expanding their business, especially into light document delivery.

"We are certified process servers and have been doing legal filing for nine years," Graves said, "and we'd like to do more legal courier services."

That would make it easier to make calls to Scotts Valley, Boulder Creek, Felton and Watsonville - long, challenging rides that members say they actually fight over. Apparently, PedXers are not only idealistic and environmentally conscientious, they're also in great shape.

Pedaler's Express (PedX)
WHAT: Locally owned bicycle courier service.

OWNER: Worker-owned and self-managed collective.

LOCATION: 224C Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz.

INFORMATION: www.pedalexpress.com/santacruz; 426-BIKE.

FINANCIALS: The collective is profitable and reinvests its profits quarterly.

HOURS: Couriers are available for hire Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for up to 300 pounds countywide.

CELEBRATION: Sunday at the 418 Project, 418 Front St., with bands, dancing, a bicycle film festival and refreshments.


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