My friend Andy launched a startup about 6 months ago, and has been getting lots of press in the last week. He's a bike nut, so that's always what we talk about when I see him : the crazy cost of the big dig and the missed opportunity for public transit, the cities without cars exhibit at the MIT Museum, Boston's legendary bike-unfriendliness, wouldn't it be great to work as a bike messenger instead of behind a desk, yada yada. He decided to make a business from his passion for bikes, and launched the New Amsterdam Project, a bicycle delivery service.
I confess that I was skeptical about the business plan when he described it to me a year ago or so. Somehow I thought he would be doing food delivery with bike messenger overhead ( the bastard son of Kozmo and Webvan perhaps? ). But I'm glad to see that's completely wrong.
It clicked for me when Andy mentioned, "We're really a trucking company" and described some of his first customers: delivering local produce to restaurants and farm-share subscribers. It's all scheduled recurring delivers, mostly business-to-business. He replaces trucks with bikes - as simple as that.
Anyway, I get it now. The zero-carbon-footprint approach to deliveries, making local produce workable, taking cars/trucks off the streets -- it's all incredibly timely with gasoline breaking the $4/gal limit. The MSM has picked up on it : he was on NPR Morning Edition last week and one or more 24 hour cable news networks sometime in the next week or so. And with every media mention, more businesses realize they can somewhat painlessly redirect necessary and frequent spending in an environmentally friendly way.
I believe we can make cities look very different than they do now, and make them work better for the cars and people whose coexistence is quite strained. Some of the change will be driven by technology, but a lot can happen with old-school determination and guts. Andy has the latter, and I wish him luck.