Over the course of the lockdown, Brussels bike couriers from cooperative Dioxyde de Gambettes teamed up with local breweries for a fruitful, eco-responsible collaboration.
Writer Alessia Capasso, Photographer Serena Vittorini
“Crossing Brussels at the peak of lockdown was a combination of magic and anxiety. There was not much human presence and nature seemed to dominate”, says Jean Philippe, a bicycle messenger working for the Dioxyde de Gambettes (GO2), a cooperative company offering deliveries by bike. Its goals: reducing car traffic, CO2 emissions, noise pollution, as well as the dependency on finite fossil fuels.
In Belgium, where hops are sacred, the local bike riders’ biggest clients during the country-wide lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic were breweries, such as micro-brewery En Stoemelings, based in Laeken. With cafés and restaurants closed, signifying a loss of four-fifth of their usual customers, owners Denys and Samuel had no choice but to reinvent their business. Within 24 hours, they managed to launch an online shop.
In one week, more than 500 beer boxes were distributed by bicycle messengers like Australian-born Jack (26). “I consider myself as a part of the least vulnerable group, and I’m convinced the safety measures GO2 put in place are effective”, he says. One of his most dystopian encounters was with a woman in Ixelles: “She came to meet me wearing thick gloves, a plastic visor covering her face, and a towel to pick up the package. “
Inside GO2’s garage, physical distancing and hygiene procedures are a priority as well. Before and after the deliveries, all bikes are disinfected, as well as the area where the goods are stored.
The implementation of the new measures went very smoothly, according to Baptistine, also a bicycle courier. “We bikers are naturally flexible and good with self-help methods. If a colleague on the street is in trouble, there is always someone ready to reach out and help, for example.”
“During lockdown, we were much more involved in managing relations with individual customers before and after delivery. Sometimes they contacted us because of small delays, and often we got messages to thank us and encourage us to continue”, she adds.
What might be part of En Stoemelings’ success was the idea to attach a social purpose to selling beers: a part of every purchase was donated to the local St. Peter’s public hospital, 2000€ in total. “My partner and I were both born in this hospital, as well as my daughter”, Denys explains the initiative. “It seemed natural to us to support its medical staff on the frontline.”
Additionally, En Stoemelings also decided to help distributing the creations of those breweries which were not able to handle delivery requests due to a lack of space and manpower. “I believe in positive growth based on collaboration rather than competition”, says Denys. A vision that will hopefully endure even after the lockdown.