Krakow is slowly shifting gears into bike culture. Although moving through the city on two wheels can still be precarious, new investments in bicycle infrastructure like paths, street lanes, and the Wavelo city bike program have made a difference in carving out room in public space and attitudes. Notorious traffic jams and the acute concern about smog and pollution have also made bikes more attractive forms of transpiration. Taken together, the changes have made biking more comfortable and viable for both leisure and commuting but also for commercial ventures like Smokowóz.
Two moving dots travel across the screen of Jason Neale’s smartphone as he keeps track of the location of his cargo bikes. This is modern cycle-logistics. He met his Polish wife in San Francisco and later moved to Poland. First to Katowice, later to Krakow. Seeing that cargo bike transportation and delivery services were proving viable in other cities and a ripening market in Krakow, he started his own company. Launched in the winter of 2015, Smokowóz (roughly translated to ‘Dragon Wagon’) is now a tight team of four, with three custom cargo bikes that transport everything from office supplies to prepared food from business to business across the city.
“If it fits in the wagon and weighs less than 80kg, we will move it.” smiled Jason.
The business has gained traction as Smokowóz has proven it can save clients money by avoiding parking costs, car maintenance costs and money lost from time wasted sitting in traffic jams. The greatest value is added for deliveries in the city center, where the logistics of working with vehicles is already very challenging, with incoming regulations further restricting car access in Old Town. Thus, bikes have become very advantageous.
“Vehicles usually have to go around the city center,” Jason explained. “We cut right through it.”
Despite its tech-savvy operation, fully insured couriers and packages, and commitment to high-quality customer service, a great challenge has been to be taken seriously with a bicycle.
“We are as professional as any other small company. Just because we are on a bike, doesn’t make us any different than, say, a van. We care about our customer and the product we are moving. We use modern technology, just with a traditional method of transportation.”
Nonetheless, Smokowóz is expanding its operations and building a distinct and fun brand. The cargo bikes are unmistakable and smile-inducing, often prompting a shout of support from people when seeing cutting through the Rynek. Maybe because having ‘one car less’ on the street has something to do with it?
In addition to commercial cargo transport, Smokowóz does personal deliveries at rates competitive to taxis, along with offering a unique program to shop and deliver food from Stary Kleparz. Make sure to check out their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.