Box-shaped, pedal-powered deliveries putting Broadway bikeway to work

IMG_9790A new bicycle-powered cargo service started whizzing around the Hill, Tuesday, April 1, as Dan Kohler launched his new business, Freewheel, with a focus on sustainable delivery, and the budding entrepreneur already has some local businesses on board. After his first day of work last week, Kohler spoke with CHS about Freewheel’s plans for eco-delivery conquest, and why he chose Capitol Hill for his business headquarters.

Freewheel was started by Kohler, and his friends Thomas Bates and Zach Silk, with the mission of providing a carbon free delivery option for businesses within a 4-5 mile radius of Capitol Hill and downtown. This zone is flexible will adjust as demand emerges, Kohler said. The decision to set up shop at 10th and Union was partially inspired by the new Broadway bikeway that will help the budding company traverse the Hill.

“That’s just terrific for getting up and down that business corridor. More improvements like that would be very welcome,” Kohler said. The growing number of Capitol Hill and downtown businesses also drew Kohler to the neighborhood, and he’s currently working on optimal delivery routes to better serve them.

“Using a cargo bike is actually pretty practical and efficient given that there is a lot of traffic in that area and hard to find parking,” he said. Kohler is the only delivery rider, but he has already created a busy schedule with deliveries for Molly’s and plans to ferry goods for Middlefork Roasters Coffee (based in South Park) as well as the sweet treats from High Five Pies. His current route through the Hill has Kohler dropping off products for Bauhaus, Central Co-op, Coffee Tree, Fuel Coffee, Stockbox and Top Pot Doughnuts. Pulling these deliveries is a neat looking electro bicycle that turned a lot of heads during its Capitol Hill debut.

The cargo bicycle can pull 400 pounds worth of goods in a very noticeable blue box, and to account for steep treks up the Hill, Kohler had an electric assist motor built in. “You can use the throttle to get up hills,” he said. “It’s still hard work but it works really well.” A local design company helped him craft the bicycle transport, and Kohler will look to add more to his fleet of one if things take off.

The blue box cargo hold is also being used for advertising. At this point Kohler is working with the companies he delivers for. “We hope that it is eye catching [the bicycle] and they [businesses/people] get excited about what we’re doing,” he said. The ideas behind the sustainable business came from a love for bicycles and the environment that Kohler hopes to promote through his service.

“This combines two of my passions. The first being: I’m an environmentalist. I’ve spent the last fifteen years working in the non-profit sector doing environmental advocacy… in addition, biking.” The birth of his daughter four months ago also gave him a kick of encouragement in committing to the new job.

“I just had a pretty powerful experience with having my first child… becoming a new father, I think, serves as a little extra motivation to do something concrete that is solution-oriented for the issues that I’m passionate about,” Kohler said. He would like to see this passion translate through Freewheel’s unique design in offering a visible example of sustainable culture for locals to draw inspiration from.

“We hope what we can do is be an example of sustainability that’s really concrete and clear and put it right on the road.” The value derived by businesses using Freewheel isn’t only in having a nifty delivery man but more importantly in showing their customers they value renewable-business practices, said Kohler. “Instead of using diesel trucks or vans, we can do it pollution-free.”

If you’re interested in giving Freewheel a spin you can reach Dan Kohler at: dan@freewheelcargo.com or visit freewheelcargo.com for more details.

Model Citizen
MC_SocialMedia_Flier_2-400x400Here’s another bicycle-focused burst of entrepreneurial energy around the neighborhood. From the CHS Community Post section:

Two years ago I moved to Seattle from the glorified ski town of Bend, Oregon, where a clean flannel is considered formal attire. As a dedicated cyclist in a new urban environment I found myself constantly wondering “What do I do when I get there?” At the time I was aware of only two options: proudly don a skintight “performance garment” and get used to being called Lance, or sweat through my cotton street clothes and hope they were dry before anyone saw me. I didn’t like either option, so I got to work.

Today, I have just launched a Kickstarter campaign at  http://kck.st/QC139o that revolves around a simple concept. Stylish Merino Wool clothes, made in America and NO middle men causing huge mark-ups.

 

23 thoughts on “Box-shaped, pedal-powered deliveries putting Broadway bikeway to work

  1. It would be nice if the city or SDOT or whoever decided that the bikeway is or is not to be used would let those who bike know what we can and cannot do. There are very specific signs that say “no bicycles on Broadway” that says no bicycles on Broadway after Olive Way” and a sign Broadway at Denny that says no bicycles on Broadway with an arrow pointing right. From those signs it could be interpreted that there are no bicycles at all permitted on Broadway past that point. If they mean that the bikeway is off limits it’s sure confusing since there does not appear to be any signs forbidding people using the bikeway one block after Denny Way. If they don’t want people using the bikeway why the heck did they open it for a month and then destroy it not more than a month or two later?

    • And I mean this in the nicest way possible:

      They dug it up after it opened because there is no coordination among agencies involved. Getting efficiency from government and its contractors is, pardon the expression, a pipe-dream. But look on the bright side . . . two (at least) crews got paid to first install the lane and then to dig it up. So it’s all good.

      • Please do dig it up… the whole thing. 2 way bikeways are stupid and dangerous in this country, with our drivers. If riding near the trolley tracks concerns you use 12th, but for criminies sake don’t ride against traffic, even when invited to by well meaning, but non cyclist politicians and engineers. Cyclists will be hit by turning traffic, when using this “facility” – I won’t be foolish enough to go anywhere near it.

        • I’m sure you won’t be using it, too, ms.spoke. People who live near the area know the installation of the streetcar required a solution for safe bike riding because of the streetcar’s rails.

          • I do live in the area… and I know the dangers of on street rail, but a 2 way bikeway was not a good solution – just as dangerous in a different way.

        • I’m not sure why you think a two-way bikeway is so dangerous. You are protected from traffic by a line of cars. Traffic is going to have to cross the bikeway at some point and is partially the reason why the bikeway is painted green whenever it crosses an intersection or a driveway. Do I assume you think that bicycle riders should navigate the tram tracks and risk getting stuck in the track? What would help is some coordination of departments so a project that was started doesn’t get destroyed when one department has not communicated with another so you get the nonsense on Broadway between E Denny Way and E Howell Street with confusing signs that make no sense. Is Broadway closed or isn’t it? If it’s indeed closed put up signs that the bikeway which cost thousands of dollars to be constructed is not to be used until the light rail station project is finished in 2016.

          • Very few cycling collisions are caused by overtaking vehicles – they get a lot of attention, as they are often very devastating or fatal, but in the scheme of things they are rare. A separated bikeway may look appealing, but really it’s not safer in any way.

            89% of bicycle car collisions occur at intersections and dual way bike lanes create a greater hazard as motorists are really not accustomed to looking for cyclists who are riding against traffic. Even the Dutch who are well known for their separated paths and their more careful motorists acknowledge that it is a problem.

            The plain fact is that dual way, separated cycling lanes create a situation that is similar to riding on a sidewalk and believe it or not, sidewalk riding is a full 25 times more hazardous than a major traffic lane with absolutely no cycling facilities.

            Yes indeed, there are now on street trolley tracks on Broadway, and yes, they can be a major cycling hazard, but as I said before, they’ve just replaced one hazard with another and worse with one that lulls people into a false sense of safety. Better to either be confident about your ability to ride near the tracks or to avoid the street all together than to use the bikeway.

            I see that there has already been at least one accident associated with the new lane and I predict that there will be plenty more. I see the way people accelerate through traffic to make their left hand turns… It’s bad enough for the pedestrians, add fast moving cyclists in a less than perfectly visible space and it’s even worse.

          • Well fine. You’ve made all your objections yet you’ve not made any suggestion how it should have been fixed. Is the solution to just ban bicycles entirely from Broadway? It’s fine to complain about your perception that the “fix” was a bad one. It would be nice instead of just complaining about what has been done to make a suggestion on how to fix the problem or is the fix just to let people on bicycles know that they are not welcome to ride in Seattle city streets?

          • lol.. I did offer a better solution. Since the tracks aren’t going to go away, allow people to make their own informed decision. Warn them that there are tracks that are hazardous – don’t let people blunder into them, but don’t lead them into an equally bad situation.

            This craziness wasn’t instituted down at Westlake. If you cycle on Westlake you can make a decision to either use it and be very careful or go over a street for those blocks. And I seriously don’t think that several blocks of Broadway becoming less than welcoming = the entire city suddenly being off limits to bicycles.

          • In other words choose your stupidity either risk going down on the tracks or getting hit by a motorist. Why don’t you say what you really mean that bicyclists should just get off the street and leave it for motorized vehicles as God intended?

      • I think ms.spoke has a point. The only reason that there hasn’t already been accidents on/near the bikeway is that it is getting very, very little use.

        • Well, so far Ms Spoke has only brought us the perceived problem. No one yet has suggested something else we can do to fix the perceived problem situation. If all you can do is complain about a problem and not offer anything that could possibly alleviate the problem you add nothing. Whining about a problem and not offering any constructive solutions is no help at all.

        • Actually, two points.
          1) there have been accidents – not of the sort ms spoke described, but accidents relating to the construction area.
          2) The bikeway is getting very little use, sure – because, 1, it is currently isolated, partway under construction, and marked as closed in some locations – and 2, it was built with the expectation to connect on the south end to yesler & the mt-to-sound trail, and that portion is not yet open, and the north end is impassable, making it basically a road to nowhere until those two projects complete later this year.

          Once it is functionally complete and not signed as off limits, you’ll see it getting dramatically more usage.

          Additionally, ms spoke is completely incorrect in her assertions about cycle track safety. The largest study of cycle track safety I’m aware of took place in Montreal:
          http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2011/02/02/ip.2010.028696.full

          And found that in the sampled data, injury per mile ridden occurred at a rate of 72% compared to streets. Further, while that’s a huge benefit already, the real gains are probably even more: this study was conducted in a single area with both tracks and streets; two factors would lead to this figure understating the safety improvements. 1), if both tracks and streets are available, the less experienced riders will naturally migrate toward tracks, meaning the street riders were likely more experienced, and 2), numerous studies have shown that as cycling adoption increases in an area, safety increases alongside as drivers become more accustomed to cyclists. Since this study examines a time-static data set, and cycling tracks do increase adoption in an area, comparing pre-track street safety to post-track track safety would likely result in a much more pronounced safety improvement.

          That’s not to say a rider on a cycle track should not be careful and aware of intersections – but don’t confuse prudence with lack of safety improvements.

  2. I know what he’s getting at and I definitely applaud this sort of business, but riding a bicycle isn’t “carbon [emissions] free” as long as he has to exhale while doing it. And it isn’t carbon free at all as long as he has to eat food in order to do it.

      • My point is just that I wish that terminology were more scientifically-accurate. Having colloquial meanings of words that are vastly different than the literal meanings makes it pretty hard for communication to happen in a precise manner, and the state of science education in this country is already poor enough without people muddying the waters, intentionally or not.

    • Oh, aren’t you clever? Then I guess it’s up to you to introduce a new expression that means “not currently pumping industrial pollution into the air”. But I suppose the creation of his bicycle and clothes created some sort of industrial pollution. Looks like pendants like you have your work cut out for you. Best of luck, Mr. Literal!

  3. 1) Fluffy beat me to it but:

    2) The electric assist makes it almost carbon free because ~ 90% of Seattle’s electrons are hydro (50% Seattle owned plus Bonneville). So carbon-wise, better to not pedal at all.

    Which brings me to :

    3) Are powered vehicles allowed on the Broadway bikeway? Pedal power, sure! Bikes with electric asset motors? Probably OK. But does that then let old-style mopeds, with gas engines and pedals use it? If OK, then scooters, motor-cycles?
    Anyone know the nitty-gritty?

  4. Pingback: Lose the delivery truck: New business will haul your cargo by bike | Seattle Bike Blog

  5. Pingback: FreeWheel: Carbon Free Cargo? Or Creating More Emissions? | skralljt.info

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