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Food bikes: a low capital, low footprint alternative to food trucks

2014 April 29

The Food Bikery seeks to prove that food bikes are a safe, legal, low-capital, and low-footprint alternative to food trucks. In transitioning mobile food off of trucks and onto bicycles, the Food Bikery will stimulate economic opportunities for low-income citizens of the East Bay who would like to start mobile food businesses. We envision that the cost of a food bike can be $5,000 or lower, which is an order of magnitude less capital investment than an average food truck ($50,000) and two orders of magnitude less capital investment than an average restaurant ($500,000). Given that a person can potentially run a food bike business as a sole entrepreneur, we estimate the profit would be enough to make an hourly wage in the range of $20-30.

Food bike cost

In addition to the economic benefits, food bikes can offer these benefits to local communities:

  1. Decrease fossil fuel consumption and climate change emissions
  2. Improve use of community space
  3. Increase physical well-being and health and foster awareness about the power of bicycles
  4. Increase awareness about where food comes from and how it is prepared

The Food Bikery has been launched as an entrepreneurial idea by myself and Jason Trager (a soon to be minted UC Berkeley PhD mechanical engineer and bike enthusiast, to say the least). We have applied for a grant from the UC Berkeley Big Ideas competition, and we should be hearing about that soon. I put in a couple months of research and interviews into the grant application. In doing so, I met a handful of food bike enthusiasts who are featured in the short film above, including Curbside Creamery, El Taco Bike, and Apothocurious/Hot Bike, the last of which I’ve written about before. Additionally, I have done more in-depth research on the code for mobile food facilities. Essentially, if you’re cooking food on a bike trailer, you are subject to line item requirements of refrigeration, three sinks, and 20 gallons of water in order to meet code. That’s why you don’t see food bikes doing any cooking at public events and markets. The ones that exist serve hot or cold pre-packaged foods at public events or simply cater to private events. We want to see a food bike that can cook at public markets, while still being safe, legal, and healthy.

In order to move forward on this project, we are requesting a grant from the Big Ideas program to build a prototype food bike, engage in policy lobbying, and pursue permitting processes to ensure that food bikes can legally operate in the East Bay. If you stand with us, please vote for our project for the Big Ideas video contest, the winner of which will get an additional $2,500 cash prize to go towards their project. Click “love it” after you watch the video here:

  • Renard Delphine

    Hi John, my name is Delphine. I am a researcher in the domain of ecology and sustainability (McGill University). I have a project of running a food bike in Southern California (where I am now) and promote sustainability everyday. I would love to hear about your experience and the bike you are designing. Could we chat over skype? you can contact me on

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