The next major category of utility cycling that we would like to examine is cycling services. In our first post, we identified a number of different services that can easily be done via bicycle. Among them:
- Retail and Commercial Services
- Emergency and Patrol Services
- Land Services
For the time being, we have separated out the category of bicycle delivery from the category of cycling services – though delivery could certainly be considered a type of service. However, delivery ultimately refers to the transportation and distribution of goods, while service usually refers to the process of providing people with something, be it food, consumer goods, medical care, information, etc. Therefore, delivery and service are most certainly related, but they have different purposes.
Within each of the three major cycling service categories listed above, we identified numerous subcategories. As always, this list is a work in progress, so if we missed something, let us know about it in the comments section below.
Retail & Commercial Services
- Advertising: The bicycle is often used as a free and convenient source of advertising. Banners flown from bike trailers, signs attached to racks, and flyer pockets in bike bags are just some of the ways the bicycle can be used to advertise.
- Pedicabs: What better way to see a city than in a carriage pulled by bicycle? Bicycle taxis or pedicabs are not only popular for tourists in many places, there are also practical means of transportation in many cities throughout the world.
- Vendors: The bicycle is also a popular mode of transportation for retail vendors, who might ride their merchandise to a certain location to set up shop for the day, and then ride home when the day is done.
- Recycling and Trash Service: Really, the extent of utility cycling is extremely vast. You can evenuse your bicycle to help pick up trash and recycling, something that seems so entirely dependent on motorized travel, but which really doesn’t have to be.
Emergency & Patrol Services
- Law Enforcement and Security: The bicycle is a very effective vehicle for patrolling urban environments, not to mention it helps one burn excess doughnut calories.
- Ambulance: Although not as common in more developed countries as they are in developing countries, there are many examples of bicycles serving as emergency response vehicles such as ambulances.
- Search and Rescue: The bicycle (usually mountain bikes) can be used in the backcountry or remote, rugged environments for search and rescue purposes in certain conditions as well.
- Trailwork: Trail users such as mountain bikers are often proponents of trail work (which includes both building and maintenance), and the bicycle is often used to transport tools and equipment to different sections of trail where work is being done.
- Bike Patrol: Bike patrol groups assist in a variety of activities from emergency response to teaching trail users about etiquette to trail work.
- Mapping: There are numerous mapping opportunities that can be done via bicycle. Perhaps the most notable is the current Google Maps effort to add a “Bike There” feature, and much of the mapping and route finding is being done via bicycle.
- Land Survey: The bicycle is a useful vehicle in urban environments for land survey in addition to the mapping mentioned above.
- Research/ Testing Equipment: The bicycle can also be used to transport research equipment for various purposes (such asacademic research beingconducted byfinancially limited graduate students)to remote places.
The concept of providing services by bike has recently grown quite a bit in popularity. Nowadays, creative, bike-minded entrepreneurs are spearheading a wide range of businesses that provide their customers with service via the bicycle. While some of these businesses are cycling-oriented to begin with – such as this Portland bike shop that provides mobile bike repair service – other businesses simply use the bicycle as a means of transportation between customer calls – for example, this horticulturalist helps sets up gardens via bike – or as a type of mobile vending machine or market stall – like this fellow in Copenhagen who sells tasty treats by bike. And recently, companies like AAA have announced that they will be providing roadside assistance to cyclists, at least in some places. And let’s not forget, the bicycle is a very effective form of advertising.
Within the realm of transportation, the bicycle taxis or pedicabs have long been providing service, mainly within downtown areas and urban environments. And as it just so turns out, the pedicabs are often much faster than the traditional taxicab! It’s an Eco-Smackdown!
In terms of emergency and patrol services, the bicycle is an essential tool for some environments in order to provide the most effective service. As those of us who often rides bikes know well, a bicycle can go many places where a car cannot . This makes it a useful tool for chasing bad guys or aiding in a rescue operation. This site is one of many examples of mountain bike patrol groups, which can be extremely effective at a wide range of activities, from transporting equipment to doing rapid searches. And of course, everyone is familiar with BOPS (aka bike cops), who can efficiently patrol urban environments on two wheels.
Bikes are also a great way to provide a wide variety of land-related services. Trail work readily springs to mind, as conscious mountain bikers often donate a few weekends a year to help build and maintain the trails on which they enjoy sweet shred sessions. Recently, Google has sent their employees out on a tricycle to areas not accessible by car in order to snap some of the images you can find on the Google Maps Street View. And hopefully, Google will soon be incorporating a “Bike There” option as well. In general, the bicycle is a useful mode of transportation for hauling gear and equipment to areas not accessible by car, be they in urban environments or in the backcountry.
I suspect that the field of cycling services will continue to grow, as more and more people start businesses that operate by bicycle. After all, it’s affordable, it’s lucrative, and it’s fun. Better than sitting behind a cubicle staring all day, if you ask me!
In future cycling service related posts, we will look at each of the different types of cycling services more closely. But in the meantime, do you have a cycling service business or do you use one? We’d love to hear about it, so tell us more in the comments section below.