gas bills for Hawaii bike messengers
Honolulu Advertiser, July 16, 2008
By Curtis Lum
Rising fuel prices, no-fault insurance and vehicle maintenance expenses
all contribute to the cost of running a delivery service.
But one segment of the industry keeps moving along with little concern
about these issues. It requires no fuel, except food and water, very
little maintenance, and the only emissions are from the grunts and
groans of its workers as they pedal to their destination.
Bicycle messenger services have been around for years and serve
primarily the Downtown business district. Except for advances in
bicycle technology, the delivery service has remained unchanged over
the years: A person on a bicycle picks up a package, dodges traffic to
deliver the item, and turns around to do it all over again.
With the increasing cost of gasoline, at least one bicycle messenger
service owner said he's noticed an increase in business recently.
"The gas prices have been going steadily up for a while, and we've had
a steady curve in our growth," said Christopher Coleman, president of
Crosstown Couriers. "We've been in business for 10 years, and we're
always growing so I don't see anything really declining. We're always
picking up new clients, at least once or twice a month."
In the beginning, Crosstown had a "handful" of clients, but Coleman
said he now has more than 100 regular customers. The company charges
about $5 for a Downtown delivery, but its service area covers Kahala to
Rice Chinen used to work for Crosstown Couriers, but last year she
decided to ride solo and formed Fly Right Messenger Service. Chinen,
25, said she has been busy lining up clients and her company does about
100 deliveries a day.
"It's pretty variable," she said of the number of jobs she gets. "Some
days you can just sit for two hours waiting for a call, and some days
it's like insanity."
Chinen said she doesn't have an advertising budget and relies on
word-of-mouth to build her customer base. She also has attracted
customers that she had at Crosstown.
Fly Right has a pool of six bicycle riders who work as independent
contractors. Chinen doesn't have to pay them benefits, which means very
little overhead, but her deliverers do get 60 percent commission on
each job, with prices starting at $4.50.
Despite advances in e-commerce and the Internet, many businesses still
rely on messengers to deliver blueprints, legal papers and other
documents that require quick attention.
"It seems like there's always a need for us. It's hands down the
fastest way to get around," Coleman said. "It's just so much faster
with the bike, and we can carry boxes up to 40 to 50 pounds, no
Joyce To, administrative assistant for architectural firm Ferraro Choi
and Associates on Bishop Street, said her company uses the bicycle
messengers often. To said the service is inexpensive and convenient.
"We've had stuff two blocks away. They come pick it up and in not even
10 minutes it's there," she said. "For me, it would take 10 minutes
just to get out of the office, so it would take awhile to deliver
To, who uses Chinen's service, said another reason her firm uses
bicycle messengers is to help the environment.
"We try to think green," she said.
Although business is good, Coleman and Chinen don't expect to ever
become a Fortune 500 company. Except for bad weather and the occasional
careless driver, they said they do the work because they love it.
"We do between 40 and 70 miles a day. That's a pretty busy day,"
Coleman said. "Everybody that works for a messenger company loves to
ride their bike already so it's great to get paid for it."
Added Chinen, "I do get on the road and do deliveries because I don't
want to be stuck in the office all day. I just love it."