In some East Coast cities, bike couriers have a reputation for being freewheeling, fast and fearless, cutting in and out of traffic, traveling more quickly than the cars around them.
In Las Vegas, SinCity Portage is trying to add “friendly” to the description.
“It’s more accepted to be a gritty bike courier in other cities because that’s the social norm there,” said the company’s owner, Matt Reyes. “Here, we’re trying to break that mold. Anyone can ride a bike, but can you deliver, not just goods in an efficient manner, but can you deliver an experience? That’s what we’re focused on.”
The company opened for business in August, working out of the Gold Spike. In early January, it moved into Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St.
“We still don’t have chairs in here yet, but we’re open and running” Reyes said.
Reyes said riders can easily clock in 20 to 45 miles a day making deliveries. Most of the company’s deliveries are food, but it has delivered a wide range of other items, including packages, medical supplies, tools, art supplies and even pet prescriptions.
The service is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Deliveries start at $4, and riders deliver to much of downtown, with a coverage zone stretching from Oakey Boulevard to U.S. Highway 95. Plans are in the works to extend service to the Strip.
So far, all of SinCity Portage’s riders are new to the job. Reyes feels that it’s less important that the riders are experienced at getting around traffic on bicycles than that they bring a good attitude to the job.
“I can teach anyone to ride a bike,” Reyes said. “What I’m trying to do is build a culture of great customer service on bikes.”
Even Reyes is a part-time rider, operating the business and making deliveries during the day and working a full-time job at night.
For UNLV student Chasen Brown, it’s a great part-time job that is good exercise and makes her feel a connection to her community.
“I’ve met so many people doing this job,” she said. “A lot of people give you props for biking. People support that we’re eco-friendly and what we do fits with what’s going on downtown.”
Erik Bauer is also a UNLV student and has been working with the company since October. He enjoys the freedom of the job and not being tied down to one place.
“Everything we do is done via our smartphones; even the traditional manifest you have signed is done on the phone with emails and text messages,” Bauer said. “Calls come in and are dispatched through our phones, so you don’t have to be hanging around the office space. You can be out riding around, learning the streets and getting some exercise, and when the call comes in, you’re straight off to the job.”
Brown lives downtown and has been home while waiting for a call to make a delivery. She said the riders are careful not to break traffic laws, but to shave delivery time, they have learned shortcuts using alleys and the most expedient routes around downtown.
“It’s really cool knowing how to get from Point A to Point B in kind of secret ways you didn’t know before,” she said.
Changes to the roads downtown have made a bike courier business more viable than it would have been even a few years ago.
“With the addition of all the bike lanes, riding downtown has been pretty good,” Bauer said. “The lights are pretty short. People are very bike-friendly. They’ll let you merge into lanes, and they’re usually pretty watchful of the bike lanes. I’ve only had a couple of close calls so far.”
Brown said even though some of the roads in other parts of town aren’t as bike-friendly, with uneven roads and a lack of bike lanes, she finds that the drivers are getting easier to deal with.
“I think there’s just a growing awareness,” Brown said. “People are more respectful of bikes now. They don’t want to hurt you.”
Reyes hopes to encourage people to invest in the downtown community by utilizing bike couriers.
“It’s environmentally clean and it calms the traffic on the city streets, all while promoting health and wellness,” Reyes said. “I personally feel like if this city is ready to grow up, it has to have bike couriers and embrace a bike messenger culture. Bike couriers are the people that unite the community they serve.”
So far, Reyes and his team of riders have gotten the word out without traditional advertising.
“It’s been word-of-mouth, the website, social media, Twitter, Instagram and handing out business cards,” Brown said. “The business cards are everywhere. We want to meet our neighbors and get the word out.”
For more information, visit sincityportage.com or call 702-625-3220.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.