Seattle Pedaling Relief Delivers a Whopping 88 Tons of Food by Bike
Cascade has increased its support for the initiative that has enlisted 450 volunteers to deliver 176,000 pounds food and supplies by bike. The goal is to make it a permanent program that can rally bike riders to meet community needs long into the future.
Eighty-eight tons. It’s a huge number that denotes how much food and supplies the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project has hauled by bike since the project’s inception last spring.
Begun in the early stages of the pandemic and economic downturn that caused a spike in unemployment and a surge in the need for food assistance, Seattle Pedaling Relief works with five community food banks around the city to deliver food to individuals and families in need.
Approximately 450 volunteer riders pedaled more than 4,600 miles while delivering more than 176,000 pounds of goods between May and February, according to the latest figures compiled by the project's co-founder, Maxwell Burton. Bike riders delivered 5,751 bags of food to 3,414 homes, taking 1,786 bike trips.
“We have developed a core new way that cyclists can get involved in their communities and help their neighbors,” says Burton, a Cascade contractor.
The project also enlists people on bikes to collect food donated by stores so that it can be redistributed by food banks. By delivering food directly to homes, Seattle Pedaling Relief eliminates the need for vulnerable people to visit food banks and risk contracting or spreading COVID-19. By making the deliveries by bike instead of car, the volunteer riders prevented nearly two tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
The project’s beauty and success lies in the fact it taps the pent up energy of the cycling community and channels it to help solve a community need.
Brie Gyncild was among a handful of volunteers who came to the Byrd Barr Place food bank in Seattle’s Central District on Thursday to deliver food by bike. Gyncild is active in community nonprofits (she co-leads Central Seattle Greenways), and she volunteers a lot of time already, but much of that work involves advocating, organizing and talking. “Delivering food is something tangible, something that makes a real and immediate difference in somebody’s life--and which also allows me to ride my bike.”
Gyncild, right, and Kawagushi, left, head down 19th Ave toward their second delivery of the day.
For 2021, Cascade has increased its financial support for the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project, with a goal of helping Burton make the program permanent. In addition to collecting and distributing food, the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project has also helped deliver sanitary products, books to schoolchildren, and partnered with community nonprofits in need of bicycle powered deliveries.
“We are getting a lot of support from Cascade in terms of staff time and outreach, and also in helping to find and apply for grants that will help us run this program long-term and make it a permanent fixture in the community,” Burton says.
Volunteers run the gamut, from newbie riders to bike racers, young and old, pedaling a variety of bicycles. Gyncild was riding her Giant hybrid bike with a borrowed trailer hitched to the rear. Nearby, Kirill Glushko stacked food boxes on his electric cargo bike, which he bought specifically for doing volunteer food deliveries.
Glushko heads out with a full load.
I love riding my bike, and I ride a lot of miles,” says Glushko, who estimates he has done 100 trips with Seattle Pedaling Relief since signing up last summer. “When COVID hit, I realized I should do something helpful with all those miles I was riding.”
After loading up our bikes with food boxes, we set off. I joined Burton, Gyncild and Malia Kawaguchi, who was participating in her second delivery with Seattle Pedaling Relief Project. Kawaguchi, who learned to ride bikes at age 32 after taking a Cascade Learn to Ride course, was taking a break from home-schooling her child to join the ride.
Our group delivered food boxes to two apartment complexes, and the entire process of loading up our bikes and delivering the food took about 90 minutes. All participants wear masks, maintain social distance and follow safety protocols.
For 2021, Burton hopes to expand an effort that enables people on bikes to stock neighborhood little free pantries. “We have volunteers who pick up food kits and re-stock every little free pantry in the Central District,” he says. “We are now looking for people who want to host a free pantry in other parts of Seattle and regularly stock it using food from our partner food banks.”
Adds Burton: “We want everyone in the Seattle cycling community to know that if they ever have free time and they want to serve their community they can sign up and join us. It’s very rewarding.”
Gyncild agrees. She has already signed up to ride every Thursday.
Cascade encourages its Seattle-area members to sign up here.
Cargo bikes like this electric Tern HSD are perfect for hauling food boxes.
See the data sheet with details on how many pounds of supplies were delivered from each food bank.
Read our story from last summer, “Seattle Pedaling Relief Uses Bicycles to Combat Hunger,” which delves into the project’s origins in the Disaster Relief Trials.