Every day is Earth Day.....
for the erstwhile Pedal People who use human labor instead of fossil fuels to transport items from point A to point B. Weighing in at 180 pounds and 6’6", 31-year-old Will Berney hauls 350 lbs of trash through the streets of Northampton with his bike. He took a moment to speak with ValleyLocavore after his shift.
V. Do you own a car?
W. Yes, a ’96 Honda Accord. It’s the first car I ever owned. I bought it from a woman in Northampton.
V. What is the strangest thing you have hauled?
W. I hauled a queen mattress and boxspring – the widest thing I’ve ever hauled although usually furniture is a lot lighter than garbage so that’s good although its more challenging to get it on to the trailer.
V. What does a job like that cost?
W. From Leeds to the dump about $50.
V. Do you have to work out to stay in the shape for this job of hauling sometimes 100 lbs for hours at a time or does the work naturally keep you in shape?
W. Lots of time somebody starts the job it might take them a few months or weeks to get into better shape and be able to take on more work. I do some exercises, like core strengthening stuff or yoga people do, to maintain the body. The work isn’t just the biking but its also lifting heavy things. Doing core strength work has helped. It makes my body work better. When I started, I didn’t do any of that. I was 22 then. I was pretty cavalier about lot so aspects. I didn’t have winter clothing or a good bike. After a while all those little things make a difference and make it more sustainable.V. So sometimes I see a pedal person grinding up the rise on Route 9 just before Cooley Dickenson Hospital hardly moving at all. I am impressed and guilty that’s I’m watching that person from my car but then I wonder, ‘are they going to make it?’
W. Oh yeah, we always make it.
V. Services include?
W. Trash, recycling, compost pick up and delivery to dump plus other deliveries such as food for Valley Green Feast. Also we do yard work.
V. Which dumps?
W. Valley Recycling on Rt. 10 and Northampton Transfer Center on Locust St.
W. Since 2006 then hiatus then back so a total of between four and five years. I did a year with Pedal People then went to college in Washington State.
V. Is this a fulltime job for you?
W. For me it is. Other people have other jobs but not me. I do about 20-25 hours a week. I’m on the high end of the spectrum here.
V. And a typical workday for you?
W. I live in Northampton on Bates Street near the Coke factory. The bike and trailer are at my home. There is no central location at work. On the days when I am picking up, I have a list of customers. I pick up at each location, usually four and then continue on to the transfer station on Locust St and drop everything off. I usually pick up around 20 customers on a work day, which would be 2 or 3 trips to the transfer center.
V. Does traffic make way for you?
W. They totally make way and we get cheers for the most part. Hardly ever jeers.
V. Advice for regular people trying to ride a bike in traffic?
W. Take as much room as you need in the lane.
V. What is it like working for a co-op?
W. We share administrative duties as well as hauling. This interview for example is an administrative duty.
V. So you’re being paid for this?
W. Well, yes.
V. How long does that take?
W. About four hours.
V. So if part of what the Pedal People do is yard work, then folks with gardens can hire you when they go on vacation?
W. Yeah. We could handle that no problem.
V. What kind of individual does it take to be a Pedal Person?
W. You have to be excited to do the physical work. As long as you’re able bodied and have the desire. It’s hard but not as insanely impossible seeming. It keeps you in shape.
For more information about Pedal People’s hauling services (which are approx. $34 per month for weekly pick-ups for Northampton residents) including yard work, check out the website at www.pedalpeople.coop.