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US Postal Service to Issue a ‘Bike Commuter’ Stamp

by Ted Johnson

The United States Postal Service is ready to again give us our day in line with stamps celebrating bicycling–having already honored The Simpsons, Cinderella, E.T., countless cars, motorcycles, aircraft, trains, plus real and fictional spaceships. (Not to mention the Gambling-Addicted Twin Sister of The Statue of Liberty).

The stamps will be available in 2012.

USPS Bike Stamps

Click image to see at full resolution

Each of the four colorful se-tenant stamps features a different kind of bike and rider: a young child just learning to ride with training wheels, a commuter pedaling to work, a road racer intent on the finish line, and an airborne BMX rider.

Recent surveys indicate that Americans enjoy approximately 2.5 billion bike rides a year. Bicycling organizations around the country report increased participation in local biking activities, and nearly half of all Americans say they would like more bicycling resources, such as trails and bike lanes, in their communities.

Bicycling is a low-impact aerobic activity that just about everyone — from young children to retirees — can enjoy. The health benefits are impressive: Riding a bike lowers the risk of obesity and heart disease, while improving muscle tone and strength. Bicycling can also lower stress.

To me that supposed “commuter pedaling to work” looks a lot more like a spandex-clad bike tourist–bike loaded with front and rear panniers. But I’m not going to complain.

Okay, I’m going to complain. To the average person, these illustrations will portray cycling as recreation or as a sport–not as a practical form of transportation. This has been the history of bicycling as depicted on US Postage stamps.

Cycling StampCycling StampCycling Stamp

Bike Messenger StampIf I’m not mistaken, years ago the USPS sponsored a cycling team of some kind as well.

Any philatelists out there? First, congratulate me for using philatelist in a sentence. Then set me straight if I’m wrong about this.

But I had to go way back to 1902 to find a cyclist depicted on a stamp biking, if not to work, biking as work. It was this ten-cent Special Delivery stamp listed as a “Messenger on Bicycle.”

The design on the right half of the stamp is a detail view of the messenger’s sleeve tattoo.

ride a bike stamp

ride a bike... forever

But earlier this year a utilitarian cyclist was featured in the Go Green stamp series. The rider is hunched over, straining to transport a strange assortment of items: some bamboo poles, a football, a picture frame, a pineapple, a bottle of milk, and poking out the front basket are Freddy Krueger‘s hands.

The Postal Service is the owner of the world’s second largest civilian fleet of vehicles (behind Wal-Mart). A press release about the stamps also says that USPS is “helping the environment by delivering mail by bicycle in locations throughout Arizona and Florida.”

It’s kind of a drop in the bucket, though, isn’t it?

Given that 70 percent USPS’s revenue (and 80 percent of its volume) comes from junk mail, it’s hard to imagine the Postmaster General or the mail carriers getting too excited about delivering mail by bike. Get rid of all that junk mail and we wouldn’t need so many mail trucks–and we’d save a lot of trees too. Of course, USPS might go broke as well–at least under it’s present business model. No wonder they prefer to think of cycling as something separate from work.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to those stamps.

 
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12 Responses to “US Postal Service to Issue a ‘Bike Commuter’ Stamp”

  1. Brandt A. says:

    Delivering mail by bike could make a significant dent in our overall carbon emissions. Every time I see a postal delivery truck, it always angers me because of how inefficient the whole process is. I usually see workers pull in front of every house, stop the engine, deliver the mail, start the engine again, and go to the next house. That’s extremely inefficient, and a using bikes could really cut down on their costs, and it wouldn’t be a big problem since these workers don’t work far from their stations.

  2. BluesCat says:

    In fairness to the USPS delivery gal in my neighborhood in Phoenix, she parks the truck up at the intersection a few blocks north of my place, and walks the mail around. They’re closing the post office which is about 2-1/2 miles away from my place; moving mail delivery for our area to a post office which is less than a mile from my house as the crow flies.

    If this “helping the environment by delivering mail by bicycle in locations throughout Arizona and Florida” stuff is true, I’ll be interested in seeing if I see the Postal Gal aboard a bike in the future.

  3. Brian Nickel says:

    To be fair, every commuter at my work looks like that stamp, except maybe without the front panniers.

    I haven’t seen anyone delivering mail by bike in Phoenix, but when I was a kid I remember our mailman always delivered by bike. Of course, we lived a quarter mile from the post office. My experience these days is the same as BluesCat, with the mailman parking the truck and walking the block. Giving them a bike could increase the range they could go without driving.

  4. Chrehn says:

    Several of the mail carriers in our community ride their bikes to work and the mail carrier that delivers in our part of town averages over 15 miles of walking a day.

  5. Tony says:

    That “junk” mail, also known as standard mail, advertising mail, and direct mail may be “junk” to you but for every $1 spend on advertising mail, companies see a return of about $16 on average? You shouldn’t disparage something because you don’t see it’s use. If you don’t like milk, do you see all dairy farmers as evil too?

    • Ted Johnson says:

      According to estimates:

      • Junk mail consumes more energy than 2.8 million cars annually.
      • The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year.
      • The loss of natural habitat potential from the 41 pounds of advertising mail is about 36.6 square meters.
      • The CO2 emissions from 41 pounds of junk mail is about 105 pounds.
      • More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail.

      But if it’s profitable it must be worthwhile, right?

      You shouldn’t disparage something because you don’t see it’s use. If you don’t like milk, do you see all dairy farmers as evil too?

      If Bob doesn’t like X, then Bob must think that producers of X are evil. That’s got to be the most anti-intellectual equivocation I’ve ever read. It’s like the platform of the Anti Critical Thinking Party. Anyone with a critical opinion is really just a categorical hater.

      Thanks for the laugh!

  6. Matt says:

    I’m a bike enthusiast and in the last few years have become very interested & involved in ebikes. I use my ebike with & without my trailer for a multitude of things most people would never think about. I also work on and sell ebike kits and finally got my ebike website up & running this year. Having said all that it’s only natural that I see bicycles successfully replacing cars & trucks just about everywhere including the USPS. But keep in mind. in addition to Ted’s remark about the huge volume of junk mail our mail carrier’s have to deliver along with the mail & packages but they pick up mail and packages as well.They know exactly what the have to deliver when they leave for their run every day but have no idea of what they’ll end up bringing back at the end of the day. So there are a few logistical issues that will have to be addressed before we’re likely to see any significant number of mail carriers on bikes. I think I smell an article brewing here. Thanks for the artical’

  7. McAngryPants says:

    What is a stamp for?

  8. Kevin Love says:

    I’ve got to agree. That’s not a bike any intelligent commuter would use. They would be using something that looks more like this:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2009/01/anatomy-of-reliable-everyday-bicycle.html

    Cargo bikes are used by postal services in a variety of countries ranging from The Netherlands to Japan to Denmark to The United Kingdom. And those places all have their fair share of junk mail. No reason why the exact same bikes and usage cannot happen in the USA.

  9. BluesCat says:

    Kevin – Another, subtle point to be made is how the frame of the bike in your link is a “crank forward” configuration. Putting the pedals farther in front of the saddle leads to a lower, more relaxed riding position.

    Being able to simply put your feet down on the ground when you stop — rather than having to leave the saddle or dance on your tip-toes if you remain in the saddle — is much more practical when you are commuting with a load on your bike and must stop frequently.

    This is one drawback to converting a road bike or mountain bike to a commuter bike. If a road/mtn bike “fits you” properly, then when you’re riding your legs must be extended when the pedal is at the bottom of the travel, which means your saddle must be up high enough, which means you WILL be on tip-toes when you stop.

    Riding a road/mtn bike with the saddle too low, and your legs NOT extended properly, can result in discomfort (sometimes even injury) to your knees.

  10. Dayglo says:

    Here’s a recent article about letter carriers working on bikes in Arizona and Florida from the letter carriers’ union magazine.

    http://www.nalc.org/news/precord/ArticlesPDF/july2011/07-2011_bikes.pdf

  11. tim says:

    What is with the guy with the mustache on the kids bike? Is he commuting? Is that USPS bike? Is that a short guy escaping on a stolen girl’s bike? Is the girl OK? That is a really weird stamp! It is just weird. Kid’s on bikes should reject this image.

    Bulk mail is communication that is working for American business. I support bulk mail and yellow pages. I am glad when people use coupons and the phone book to call my employer to buy products that I make. I am more upset with large cargo jets landing in this county with products made in another country. Where can I get the Overseas Cargo Jet stamp? Is there a website for utility jetting?

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