Blast-Off for Bike Messengers

Gone are the days when carrier pigeons flew mail into downtown L.A. from Catalina Island. But thanks to a boost from technology, electro-fueled bike messengers are now flying between offices on Bunker Hill and among the banks, courthouses, shops and other bustling enterprises in the city's business center.

Messengers with downtown-based ProCourier blasted off on E-Ride bikes last year. Designed and distributed by Currie Technologies Inc. in Van Nuys, the bikes have a drive unit on the rear hub that's powered by a rechargeable 24-volt battery. The battery has enough juice to last 18 to 25 miles with some pedaling at speeds of up to 18 mph. "They have made life far easier, without question," says Bob Faulkner, co-owner of ProCourier, which employs 10 to 15 bike messengers and 250 drivers (the latter throughout Southern California).

"They definitely help a lot on hills," says bike messenger and dispatcher Javier Lopez. In a busy eight-hour day, Lopez can make up to 30 runs--to the financial district, say, or north to Chinatown and south toward USC--and it's a pleasure, he says, to flip on the battery switch and press the handlebar throttle for that "zoom" effect. Combine that with a sleek red-and-yellow frame and modifications made by some ProCourier messengers--higher-end brakes, alloy handlebars, comfy seats--and you've got a lean, mean riding machine for delivering a legal brief or any small package that fits into a messenger's backpack.

The E-Ride, which retails for about $600, has also caught the eye of recreational bikers, environmentalists and security firms, says a Currie spokesman. For ProCourier messengers, it's especially leg-saving by late afternoon, when those last deliveries need to be made by the close of business. As any carrier pigeon can testify, there's nothing better than beating the clock to the courthouse door when you're on the fly.

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