Now that Slow Roll season is underway with a weekly Monday night livestream virtual roll – our second broadcast will be a Virtual Solidarity Roll with PUSH Buffalo this coming Monday, May 11th, 6:30pm right here on our homepage – we will continue our custom of previewing our upcoming Monday gathering with a series of profiles on members of our community.
Our “Community on Wheels” feature begins this year with the Queen City Couriers (QCC), who are starting to earn a lot of attention for their frontline volunteer service of food deliveries to homebound neighbors in coordination with PUSH with support from GObike Buffalo and Slow Roll. Many in our community took notice when deliveries began as a rapid response in mid-March, and now QCC is seeking both funding and volunteers to help meet the ongoing need.
Photos by Clay Davies
To learn more, we turned to Slow Roll squad and steering committee member, GObike Buffalo Community Outreach Director, veteran bike courier and QCC “fairy godmother” Rebecca Reilly.
What inspired the creation of Queen City Couriers?
The inspiration for Queen City Couriers originated almost a year ago through an Instagram club, Fixed Gear Buffalo – a bunch of guys were hanging out, riding, learning tricks together, and the thought in the air was, “Maybe we could start a bike courier company in Buffalo.”
I sat down with them and we all did a brain dump on how we thought a courier company in Buffalo might be run. We considered the other courier companies that had been tried, and some of the challenges they faced. I shared a lot of hard-won information that I’ve been collecting for at least two decades about the worldwide courier community and trends in the industry. I told them some things that I thought they should think about and work on and I checked in to see what they were up to every few months.
The launch happened when I got an email from PUSH Buffalo Deputy Director Harper Bishop saying that they were going to start delivering food to people in their community that were unable to leave their homes and were having a hard time affording groceries. I called Ben Cliff and asked him what Queen City Couriers was up to, and he told me that they were thinking of delivering as a free service to help those in need – with that a beautiful partnership was born.
It is fitting I think, that Queen City Couriers does most of their delivery for an organization that is committed to sustainability and climate justice in PUSH. Bikes fit right in with that vision. At first, PUSH didn’t have the logistics together to go shopping or organize a coordinated delivery effort. I have extensive logistics experience – first from my 10 years as a courier in 10 cities across the US and Canada, to my first enlistment in the US Marine Corps as a “Red Patch.”
I’ve been moving things nearly my entire working life.
Through your experience, putting QCC to work in a time of crisis is nothing new, right?
I probably know more bike couriers worldwide than anyone on the planet. I have worked as a messenger in 10 cities across the US and Canada and I have ridden my bike in more than 60 cities around the world. My understanding of bike couriers is encyclopedic. My book, “Nerves of Steel,” was the inspiration for Buffalo’s first bike courier, Mike Rizzo of “Speedy Delivery” in the late 90’s. I advised him on his business a few years after I’d been a Marine and was home on leave.
That being said, there is a long history of bike couriers helping out during crises. As far back as 1846, bike couriers delivered the mail and even have a stamp for the Fresno Line that went from Fresno to San Francisco. In the 1987 Loma Vista quake in San Francisco, couriers helped deliver essential items because cars couldn’t make it through with all the destruction. After 9/11, a caravan of couriers from DC & Philly went up to NYC to help with recovery efforts.
The attitude is, you can, therefore you should.
To be a courier takes a tough hide and ingenuity. Though QCC cofounder Shane Paul hadn’t been a courier, he reveled in stories of the courier community in NYC that friends “G” and Ben Cliff both experienced when they lived there. The Buffalo crew of fixed gear riders wanted that courier community here. They had the courier mindset, but not the job. It takes real bravery to start a company; it takes even more moxie to start one during a pandemic.
Ultimately, it feels good to ride a bike. It also feels good to help people. Slow Roll squad member Karen Huffman, who rides with QCC regularly, put it best: “I’ve had hard times, too.” When you feel you can, and you know you are blessed, why not turn that into solidarity?
How can everyone get involved?
There are a few ways folks can help:
1. Donate to Queen City Couriers so they can get trailers to help couriers deliver heavy groceries all over town.
2. If you are a strong rider and have a rack and/or trailer, come and volunteer. It’s not easy work, but it is rewarding. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Encourage friends and businesses in the city of Buffalo to switch from dirty truck delivery to clean bike delivery and become a paying client of Queen City Couriers, help them make the transition to a sustainable business.