US Postal Service to Issue a 'Bike Commuter' Stamp

The United States Postal Service is ready to again give us our day in line with stamps celebrating bicycling–having already honored The Simpsons, Cinderella, E.T., countless cars, motorcycles, aircraft, trains, plus real and fictional spaceships. (Not to mention the Gambling-Addicted Twin Sister of The Statue of Liberty).

The stamps will be available in 2012.

USPS Bike Stamps
Click image to see at full resolution

Each of the four colorful se-tenant stamps features a different kind of bike and rider: a young child just learning to ride with training wheels, a commuter pedaling to work, a road racer intent on the finish line, and an airborne BMX rider.

Recent surveys indicate that Americans enjoy approximately 2.5 billion bike rides a year. Bicycling organizations around the country report increased participation in local biking activities, and nearly half of all Americans say they would like more bicycling resources, such as trails and bike lanes, in their communities.

Bicycling is a low-impact aerobic activity that just about everyone "” from young children to retirees "” can enjoy. The health benefits are impressive: Riding a bike lowers the risk of obesity and heart disease, while improving muscle tone and strength. Bicycling can also lower stress.

To me that supposed “commuter pedaling to work” looks a lot more like a spandex-clad bike tourist–bike loaded with front and rear panniers. But I’m not going to complain.

Okay, I’m going to complain. To the average person, these illustrations will portray cycling as recreation or as a sport–not as a practical form of transportation. This has been the history of bicycling as depicted on US Postage stamps.

Cycling StampCycling StampCycling Stamp

Bike Messenger StampIf I’m not mistaken, years ago the USPS sponsored a cycling team of some kind as well.

Any philatelists out there? First, congratulate me for using philatelist in a sentence. Then set me straight if I’m wrong about this.

But I had to go way back to 1902 to find a cyclist depicted on a stamp biking, if not to work, biking as work. It was this ten-cent Special Delivery stamp listed as a “Messenger on Bicycle.”

The design on the right half of the stamp is a detail view of the messenger’s sleeve tattoo.

ride a bike stamp
ride a bike... forever

But earlier this year a utilitarian cyclist was featured in the Go Green stamp series. The rider is hunched over, straining to transport a strange assortment of items: some bamboo poles, a football, a picture frame, a pineapple, a bottle of milk, and poking out the front basket are Freddy Krueger‘s hands.

The Postal Service is the owner of the world’s second largest civilian fleet of vehicles (behind Wal-Mart). A press release about the stamps also says that USPS is “helping the environment by delivering mail by bicycle in locations throughout Arizona and Florida.”

It’s kind of a drop in the bucket, though, isn’t it?

Given that 70 percent USPS’s revenue (and 80 percent of its volume) comes from junk mail, it’s hard to imagine the Postmaster General or the mail carriers getting too excited about delivering mail by bike. Get rid of all that junk mail and we wouldn’t need so many mail trucks–and we’d save a lot of trees too. Of course, USPS might go broke as well–at least under it’s present business model. No wonder they prefer to think of cycling as something separate from work.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to those stamps.

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