Getting to you

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How do things get to you? Consider the factors driving the means of delivery: fuel costs/range, geographic demands, dimensions of cargo, weather/climate considerations. In Chengkou, a little burg nestled between mountains a mere eight (bumpy) hours’ ride north of metropolitan Chongqing, the mail has a few ways of getting around.

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Similar to Chongqing, the much larger city I left the day before, motorcycles move letters in both Chengkou and Chongqing alike. With that distinctive shade of that postal green, I often witnessed this pair of motorcycles buzzing up and down the formidable pair of mountains between which Chengkou is based. Around here, a few privately owned electric vehicles are also used for delivering packages, and some small company branches in town use the vehicles to distribute their products locally – such as a national dairy company that delivers milk via electric 3-wheeled vehicle. Independently-owned vehicles cluster around the long distance bus station, jostling with taxis for fares for cargo and passengers alike (although technically only non-human cargo is legal, the law forbidding passengers is seldom enforced).

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One electric 3-wheeled vehicle that frequently visits the bus station but needn’t worry about competing for cargo is the one owned by a logistics company, which receives packages sent from larger cities to this small town at the bus station, where they are deposited by buses that informally transport them in their cargo hold for a small fee.

Here is an earlier piece I wrote for MIT’s CoLab radio musing on urban China’s motorcycle-based parcel delivery system, where drivers depend on local knowledge for finding a suitable place to park and directing parcel recipients to them.

Also, if you just can’t read enough about mail in China’s rapidly con/destructing cities, here are some more thoughts on “dead letter processes”, and how the speed of urban change can unbalance other systems in China.

Finally, late but still somewhat on topic, here is a piece I wrote for frog design last month on the present behaviors and opportunities surrounding the chargers for electrically powered vehicles, and a profile of the many functions these versatile vehicles serve across China.

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