lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

Andrés the Mushroom Pedaler

Andrés may be the most ubiquitous and dedicated cyclists to be seen in central Bogotá. Six days a week, you'll see him pedaling the city delivering fresh mushrooms to stores, restaurants and even universities.

For 15 years, Andrés, 47, has been delivering the mushrooms which his brother grows on a farm in Chia, to Bogotá's north. He picks the mushrooms up in the market of Paloquemao and pedals 50 kilometers per day, he guesstimates, from around 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., rain or shine, in the heat and cold, rain or shine, winding his way thru the city's horrendous traffic jams.

Bogotá has lots of other bicycle deliverers, who carry potatoes, cheese, pizzas and letters. But I don't think any other covers as much ground carrying as much weight as Andrés does. I see him in La Candelaria, around the National University, and I'm sure he also goes to lots of places I don't. A days delivering requires several trips, since he can only carry about half of the 100 kilograms he delivers every day in one load.

There's nothing fancy about the guy, on his old, beat-up bike and even more worn clothes. But he's usually smiling and cheerful, even in Bogotá's frequent downpours.

Even when he's sick, Andrés still delivers - "I can't lose my customers," he explains. 

And Andrés has competition: Zeta mushrooms, which delivers by truck.

But Andrés prefers the agility and freedom he has on his bike. "I can stop wherever I want, I can go thru traffic, I don't get stuck in traffic jams."

Andrés' mushrooms are also cheaper and he gives more personalized service. Sometimes, a restaurant calls him at 7 or 8 p.m., desperate for mushrooms - and, if he can, Andrés delivers. 

He hasn't switched to a motorcycle, in part because he likes the ecological aspect of cycling. And biking keeps him in shape.

"I was always thin," he observes, "but now I'm thinner."

Andrés also likes the independence. He's got a college degree in business administration and worked for years managing a relative's printing business. But he's happier now, because "I like the freedom."

And, with the mushroom delivery business Andrés and his wife are raising three children.

However, bicycle delivery in Bogotá does have its hazards. Andrés has suffered falls, tho never a serious accident. And he's had two bicycles stolen.

"I came back and they weren't there," he recalls.

Still, he doesn't use a lock, altho he is thinking about buying one.

Andrés rides away, more rolling proof that bicycles are effective transport in Bogotá.

Call Andres at 320-846-8359 .

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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