Ask B-line’s Franklin Jones why his company’s tricycles are more efficient than trucks and he’s likely to respond with math:
“Our trikes travel roughly 11 miles per hour,” Jones posits. “That’s pretty much the pace city stoplights are timed for. So if a truck’s going 25 miles per hour, as soon as it hits a light it’s going to stop. If the truck just traveled at 11, he’d be able to go through without stopping.”
B-line’s three-wheeled, electric-assist tricycles, each hauling a large rectangular cargo carrier, have been making deliveries and pickups around Portland’s urban core since 2009. Founded by Jones, 44, a longtime recreational cyclist from Louisville, Kentucky, B-line attacks the “last mile problem”: conventional delivery trucks can be efficient over long distances on highways, but navigating through surface streets, stop signs, and residential neighborhoods pollutes the city, clogs traffic, and takes a long time.
“Our riders carry 700 pounds of product and hit 15 different stops in about two and a half hours,” explains Jones. That compares favorably, he argues, to the performance of a delivery truck on a similar route.
This fall, the company moves its headquarters and distribution point to a facility in the Redd, the former warehouse in the Central Eastside Industrial District partially owned by the environmental nonprofit Ecotrust. The new digs will allow B-line to better serve the farm-to-table market: suppliers can drop produce at a single hub, and B-line can pedal the goods to market. “It really is looking to solve some of the hurdles small to midsize producers face to enter the market,” Jones says. For instance, B-line will provide a central location for purveyors like Carman Ranch in Wallowa to deliver raw meat, package it, and get it to stores via B-line’s trikes.
Since 2009 B-line has grown to a 15-person, eight-trike company, with clients like Dave’s Killer Bread, Portland Roasting Coffee, GloryBee, New Seasons, and Grand Central Bakery. In addition to opening up a secondary North Portland hub next fall, Jones looks forward to expanding to more cities.