Setting aside the obvious ecological benefits of bicycles over idling cars, bike couriers have always been an efficient choice in dense city environments because they don't have to worry about street parking.
Companies as diverse as Pearl Bakery and Office Depot have already figured this out and use Portland bike cargo company B-Line for door-to-door business deliveries. But precious few companies deliver by bike to private individuals, and some of the ones that do aren't economically feasible. Clever Cycles, for example, will deliver a Dutch hot tub by bicycle for $400. That buys you three days' rental at a cost only slightly higher than renting a mountain cabin with a hot tub for the weekend.
Clever's offer wasn't in our budget—we all showed up to work in swimsuits for nothing—but we did try a few others.
What do they deliver by bike? The meal for two costs $16 for 28 ounces of soup, some spinach salad and two pieces of bread. (Utensils not included—be prepared, Girl Scouts!)
Where do they deliver? Much of Portland—out to 52nd Avenue on the east side and 23rd Avenue on the west side. But delivery hits each sector only once a week.
How easy is it? Oh, sheesh. You order a week in advance, can receive soup only on one specific day, and delivery happens at an unspecified time between 9 am and 6 pm. Plus, it's a subscription service, so random-flavored cold tubs of soup keep coming every week. And whether through bad Web design or intentional obfuscation, it's very difficult to permanently cancel your "soupscription." The whole experience is like getting your cable repaired by Columbia House record club.
Is it worth it? Deli tubs of cold, bland soup that cost $8 per person and keep coming at you harder than T2, but only on Soupcycle's schedule? Oh, hells to the no. On the plus side, the delivery rider was the happiest-seeming human being we've seen in years.
Old Town Pizza
226 NW Davis St., 222-9999; 5201 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 200-5988; oldtownpizza.com.
What do they deliver by bike? Pizza and sandwiches and, oh yeah…beer! Growlers of Old Town's own beer arrive for $15 (plus the $2.50 delivery charge), but if you swap them an empty Old Town growler, they'll knock $5 off that. Greasy, cheesy, bready pizzas are about $20 for a modest-sized large. The website also shows a keg being ridden around on a bicycle basket, but that doesn't happen, sadly. [Erratum: kegs are delivered to bars by bike, just not to private folk.]
Where do they deliver? All of downtown and the Pearl District, and a 15-block radius surrounding the MLK location.
How easy is it? Perhaps you've ordered pizza for delivery before. It's a lot like that. In fact, Old Town Pizza arrived at our offices faster by bike than nearby Lonesome's Pizza usually does by car.
Is it worth it? A clink of frosty beer mugs to Old Town.
Portland Pedal Power
What do they deliver by bike? Almost anything, from scads of partner businesses. If you're downtown, you can get lunch brought for a $5 surcharge, but we decided instead to deliver a flower arrangement to retiring, cranky news-blogger Jack Bogdanski (bojack.org), in honor of our bicycle issue (delivery fee $12.50 on a $25 bouquet from Botanica Floral Design). Why? Because Bojack loves bikes so, so much. (He confirmed receipt by email.)
Where do they deliver? All through the Portland interior, though the delivery radius depends on whose stuff you're getting delivered.
How easy is it? You get on the website and order—most deliveries arrive within about two hours, as long as you order before 1 pm or so.
Is it worth it? Sometimes. Certainly for large-office lunch deliveries downtown; the delivery charge becomes negligible in bulk. Plus, PPP's roster includes the best-quality delivered sushi (and udon) in Portland, from tiny Mizu Sushi.
923 SW Oak St., 545-6444, couriercoffeeroasters.com.
What do they deliver by bike? Light-roasted coffee beans by the bag. Ours were Ethiopian, pleasantly sweet and $14.
Where do they deliver? To all city quadrants depending on the day, but they make trips to downtown businesses daily, mostly in the morning.
How easy is it? Next-business-day delivery is standard for downtown and offices, or the coffee will come on that quadrant's designated day. Unless you've made payment arrangements for long-term delivery schedules, you'll have to be around to pay cash on delivery.
Is it worth it? Let's say you want to order Stumptown Coffee, and have it delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Your pound of Hairbender is $14, plus shipping. Your pound of Courier Ethiopian is $14, plus a tip for the bike delivery guy. Take your pick, but one of these two is less wasteful than the other.
Taco the Town (On hold!)
What do (did) they deliver by bike? Tacos and sides, with just about every item the same price. Carnitas or vegan taco? $2. Off-menu guacamole? $2. Salsas? $2. It's like socialism! No added delivery fee, however—just like socialism!
Where do (did) they deliver? Within about three miles of Northeast 26th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard.
How easy is (was) it? Our tacos arrived in a little over 30 minutes, and we paid a friendly, pony-tailed fellow using one of those handy cellphone Square devices.
Is (was) it worth it? This was our favorite delivery food in Portland, with low prices, ridiculously fresh everything, handmade tortillas, inventive vegetarian taco fillings and off-menu items galore. But here's the thing: Delivery is on brief hiatus while TTT moves into the food-cart pod on Southeast 28th Avenue and Ankeny Street, near Wolf and Bear's. The owners plan to expand their bike delivery service to include other carts in the pod once they're moved in.