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Jax Daily Record Friday, Aug. 17, 200712:00 PM EST

250 miles a week: bicycle messenger specializes in speedy service

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

In cities like New York, Chicago and Seattle you see hundreds of them every day but Jacksonville has just one bicycle messenger, Specialty Freight & Courier’s Chuck Lysaght. He’s a familiar and easily recognizable sight in his bright red shirt, black beret and backpack.

Lysaght and his bike have been part of the Downtown scene for several years beginning when he was a member of Downtown Vision, Inc.’s first group of Downtown Ambassadors.

“I used to ride bike patrol for DVI Downtown and in San Marco. Back then I worked on safety issues with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

Lysaght’s appreciation for two-wheeled travel began at an early age but he admits it could have gone the other way.

“When I was five years old, I climbed on a bike that was too big for me. I had a bad crash and fractured my skull and broke my shoulder, but I’ve been on a bike ever since,” he said.

During his diverse career, Lysaght said he has worked as a commercial fisherman and a lifeguard and spent a few years playing guitar in a band and touring Florida’s nightclubs. He also spent some time in sales, but was never truly content until he found a way to make a living on his bike.

“Before I became an Ambassador, I had worked in a cubicle for a while, but I got tired of being inside all the time. When I got the job at DVI riding my bike all day, I knew that was my calling. Now I do basically the same thing but I’ve traded a bright orange shirt for a red one.

“When I’m on my bike, I enjoy working every day. It’s more fun than work, but I take the job seriously,” said Lysaght.

Having a messenger on a bicycle who knows every address on every street in the urban core makes his entire operation run smoother according to Walker Allen, president of Specialty Freight & Courier.

“Chuck makes our motorized couriers’ jobs much easier because they don’t have to come into Downtown and navigate the streets then find a place to park to make a delivery,“ said Allen.

Allen said if a delivery headed Downtown begins its journey in the suburbs – or as far away as Daytona Beach or Tallahassee – Lysaght meets the courier on the outskirts of Downtown, then pedals it to its destination. Or, he can pick up a package Downtown and hand it off to a motorized courier when it’s bound for an outlying area.

Lysaght said as Specialty Freight & Courier’s amount of business grows, so has his territory. Lately he has been logging as many as 250 miles a week.

“Our business in Riverside is growing all the time and now I’m going to Springfield on a regular basis. It’s nice to be a part of Downtown’s revival and I get to watch it happen at street level,” said Lysaght.

While his company takes advantage of technology to provide the fastest service possible and the Internet has improved some aspects of the courier and delivery business, Allen doesn’t believe any amount of high-tech will ever replace messengers picking up and delivering packages in person.

“Some types of documents will always need to be hand-delivered, like legal documents that have to be filed or recorded and you can’t get an authentic signature on the Internet. Our clients can input orders for pickups and even track the status of their deliveries on the Internet, but this is a people business.

“For our Downtown customers, Chuck’s face is our company’s face,” he said.

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