5 Pedal-powered Bike Vendors Take Fresh Eats to Vancouver’s Streets

Serving up everything from coffee to lunch and produce to popsicles by bike, these pedal pushers are taking the eat local credo a step further

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Meals on wheels takes on new meaning as Vancouver’s bicycling craze spreads to bike-based companies cashing in on the popular mode of transportation

A portable café, pick-and-deliver produce at your doorstep, homemade ice cream and popsicles served up with nostalgic style, and bike-catered lunches take the eat local credo a step further.

These vendors prove that biking is no longer just for recreation, but a fast, efficient, eco-friendly and highly marketable way to get from A to B. You might assume they are all cycling enthusiasts that took their passion to work, but this isn’t the case. Their reasoning varies greatly, but either way, pedal power – and the planet – wins.

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Earnest Ice Cream

Although it only began a year ago, this ice cream “peddling” company has been so successful that it’s just opened a store at 3992 Fraser St. It’s the 50 delectable flavours made with whole, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients – including high milk fat – that has attracted loyal followers to Earnest Ice Cream.

Inspired flavours include roasted rhubarb oat crumble, blue cheese and fig, lemon poppy seed, lavender, sour cherry chocolate chip, whiskey hazelnut, pumpkin pie, mulled pear, chai, Mexican chocolate, white peach brown butter, and coconut kaffir lime; and seven at a time are toted in the bike cart.

You may have seen the old-fashioned custom-built bike cart selling glass jars of ice cream at the Trout Lake, Kitsilano and Maine Street Farmer’s Markets, and it’s also available in a few local independent stores. (You pay a dollar deposit for the jar and then get refills.)

Owners Erica Bernardi and Ben Ernest are avid cyclists and foodies who, as Erica states, “are passionate about being involved in the local food economy and promoting all that’s available in BC.”

Ernest, who cycled across the US for his honeymoon, stopping for ice cream along the way, never lost his love of the frozen dessert after working at his first job at Dairy Queen.

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Vancouver Food Pedalers Cooperative

Former Vancouver Island farmer Chris Thoreau grew his own spouted greens at home and wanted to create an urban farm that could be socially sustainable, make money, and not take up much room. He now has a prolific plot near Strathcona Park in Vancouver that boasts high-quality organic microgreens of several varieties.

In its fifth season (as a cooperative since February 2013), he produces sprouted greens for restaurants, grocers and farmers’ markets, and delivers them by bicycle cart.

Crunchy sunflower greens, sweet, delicate pea shoots, lemony buckwheat shoots (said to have an almost melt-in-your-mouth quality) and spicy radish greens are grown over a 10-day period. And although Food Pedalers’ production system is intensive, it requires only a few thousand square feet of city land.

Thoreau and co-op co-owner Dan Pinto deliver by bicycle because it’s an economical, eco-friendly way to get greens to restaurants within hours after harvesting, without having to lease a vehicle or go through a food delivery company.

The Food Pedalers’ microgreens bike cart can be found at East Vancouver Farmers Market, Main Street Farmers Market, and Nat Bailey Market, selling greens for $5 per 150 gram bag. (Bulk pricing also available to individual customers.) A recent Vancity grant is enabling the company to soon produce year-round, planting in a modified 40-foot moving container.

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Marley Bike Caffe

Outside the Olympic Village Canada Line Station you may stop short at an unusual Rasta-themed coffee shop attached to a bicycle. Marley Bike Caffe offers the fundamentals of your favourite café, but without the lineups.

Although he doesn’t ride a bicycle, Trevor Holness was looking for a diversion from his movie set-making job and was attracted to the barista concept for its versatility and low carbon footprint. (The espresso machine will soon run on vegetable oil waste.)

He teamed up with Marley Coffee, a socially conscious Vancouver company owned by music legend Bob Marley’s son, for the coffee, and sells a 12- or 16-ounce beverage cheaper than most coffee shops due to low overhead.

He also stocks gluten-free Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery and Patisserie Lebeau goodies in addition to his own homemade desserts like chocolate zucchini cake. Although he entices daily return customers at the Skytrain Station, he also bikes his cart to the Steveston and River District farmers’ markets on Sundays.

He constructed and wheeled out his mini-mobile café in October 2012, and then his father bought the franchise rights for Canada of BikeCaffe, a Colorado-based company, as a small business opportunity. It makes and sells the carts for a variety of uses.

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Johnny’s Pops

Johnny Wikkerink started selling popsicles four months ago from his big custom-made bike cart (he’s six feet, nine inches tall) because it “matches his personality, is fun and unpretentious, and spreads the maximum amount of joy to others for the least amount of money.”

Fifteen flavours (five at a time in his cart) such as apricot salted caramel, blueberry cardamom, avocado lime, banana cream pie, strawberry basil, rhubarb elderflower, and blackberry mojito are made with mostly local and seasonal ingredients. Johnny’s Pops are $3 each.

The artist and former cook makes the popsicles himself in a commercial kitchen and sells them at select farmers’ markets, the Food Cart Fest (Olympic Village at the Cambie St. Bridge), Athletes’ Village, and local festivals. To play a game of “Where’s Johnny?,” follow his location each day on Facebook or Twitter.

Credit: Flickr/freddy

Bites on Bikes

If you want to feel like you’ve done a good deed just by eating your lunch, Bites on Bikes offers lunch boxes that include a gourmet sandwich, homemade dessert, fresh fruit and beverage prepared fresh in socially conscious kitchens and delivered by electric bikes.

They support a program created by H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society, which provides job skills and food services work to Downtown Eastside individuals. Lunches (individual servings or catered trays) are transported by Shift Delivery electric cargo bikes to businesses throughout downtown Vancouver. Lunch boxes cost $12 (minimum order of five required for delivery) with all proceeds benefiting H.A.V.E.

Try the salami, bocconcini and fresh basil, the Montreal smoked meat, Swiss cheese and dijon on rye, the roast top sirloin on multigrain, or the turkey and havarti with caramelized onions on cranberry sourdough. Gourmet salads and sweets (like homemade brownies, banana bread​ and cowboy cookies) also tempt.

Brad Mills, founder of Bites on Bikes and executive director of H.A.V.E., says that logistics were the main reason to use bikes for the initiative, launched six months ago. “It’s impossible to park downtown, which is essential for a caterer, so now we use bike lanes and park on the curb to get it there faster, and keep costs down without gas or parking fees.”

5 Pedal-powered Bike Vendors