a messenger often is a jumping-off point for people, or perhaps just
something they're doing while waiting for their real calling to take
off... Some have gone on to be a bit more well-known, and some of these
are more well-known than others...
Digital files, cloud computing and accelerating broadband have long put
bike messengers on the endangered species list. No matter how fast a
messenger is, even a triple rush can’t compete with instantaneous. For
messengers, technology is more of a threat than wily cab drivers and
But, oddly, technology is also what keeps them around. The evolution of
software and mobile phones has allowed some messenger companies to work
in autonomous cells, rather than as an overhead-heavy hierarchy. A
central headquarters is now obsolete, and profit-sharing employees take
turns dispatching and making runs.
“Bike messengers will always exist,” says messenger entrepreneur Josh
Weitzner, citing all the inventions that were supposed to spell the end
for bike messengers but didn’t — the latest being 3-D printers with
their ability to produce product prototypes from anywhere in the world.
Velo City Tour is an Annual
Velodrome racing series created by Kevin "Squid" Bolger in 2006. In
support of North American Track Racing and the Cycle Messenger World
Championships, Velo City brings riders and their fixed gears from the
street to the track!
Over six years Velo City has rocked Nine US Velodromes and sent a total
of 24 North American Bike Messengers to the Cycle Messenger Worlds.
This year Velo City is proud to deliver two of North America’s best to
Warsaw Poland for the 19th Annual CMWC
he would win. In fact, it was his first trip to the
competition. In the small town of Panajachel,
the confusing and
often unpaved streets to take home the title. Craig is back at work in Seattle now, delivering all over the city for KNR
In New York City's business
districts, billion of dollars are traded everyday and power deals are
closed every minute. Within the hundreds of skyscrapers there are
dedicated messenger centers that insure and time to the minute the
delivery of business documents used to complete deals large and small.
Kurt Boone has worked as a foot messenger for over 14 years, rushing
throughout the city in all weather conditions, picking up and
delivering these critical business documents. In Asphalt Warrior he
tells his story as one of the fastest messengers in the city and his
experiences in the now world-famous messenger culture, describing the
messenger lifestyle of parties, alleycat racing, riding fixed bicycles
and carrying messenger bags to and from the most high-end office
buildings and residential apartment buildings in the world.
officers violently attacked two partygoers at the M Room early Sunday
morning, according to witness accounts. Dozens of people were gathered
at the Fishtown bar for a fundraising party for injured bike
The police reportedly made their first visit of the night around
midnight when one partygoer beat another one with a stick or baton. The
attacker fled and a number of partygoers went to give a statement at
the police precinct. According to a police spokesperson, the assailant
was arrested. About 20 minutes later, another scuffle broke out outside
the bar, also known as the Manhattan Room, on Girard Avenue just a
block from the El.
Federation of Bike Messenger Associations (IFBMA) is pleased to
announce that Toronto’s Nadir Olivet has been awarded the 2010 “Markus
Cook Memorial Award” (MCA) for Services to the International Messenger
Community. The IFBMA has awarded the Markus Cook Award (MCA) since 1998
to the person who has inspired and empowered the wider messenger
community, and who put all messengers before themselves.
more than ten years. He is a
limitless visionary. He dreams big and he brings those dreams to
reality. He has organized the Global Warming Alleycat simultaneously in
cities such as Mexico City, Berlin, San Francisco, New York and
Toronto. His “Look Ma No Brakes” alleycat brought the largest cash
prize to messenger racing. And his Grand Premio of Guatemala introduced
messengers to the possibility of competing in every part of the world
while contributing to the local community.
years Nadir has opened his house, his wallet and his mind for the
benefit of others the world over. As the owner of La Carrera Cycles in
Toronto, he has sponsored and helped messengers make the adjustment
from alleycat racing to professional racing including the Olympic Games.
Award, receiving a
nomination virtually every year with his nominations coming from all
over the world. However 2010 is the most appropriate year for Nadir to
receive this award. This year he kept a promise to the people of
Guatemala and brought the Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) to
the town of Panajachel.
Panajachel. Nadir brought bike messengers, inspiration and
determination. He led messengers to collect and distribute a large
quantity of supplies to benefit the victims of the tropical storm. When
the figure-eight track and the polo court were washed out his crew
rebuilt them in record time ensuring the Championships’ success. CMWC
Panajachel reinvented the CMWC bringing immense pride to the
international messenger community. Nadir integrated the Championships
with the local community, changing the lives of both the locals and the
messengers. Panajachel responded to the efforts by opening their arms
to the international messengers and presenting Nadir with the key to
Appreciation is something I rarely experience on the road. I show up
every day ready to ride hard in every imaginable weather condition and
under any circumstance. In one sense it is understandable. There is
little time for appreciation because as soon as I complete one job
there may be a more important one already waiting.
Deliver or die. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad weather, traffic,
mechanical problems or any other extraordinary circumstance. The client
does not care. They want their package right away; otherwise they
would probably call UPS or FedEx.
Although customers seldom admit it, they often rely on the bike
messenger to be their hero. They need someone to keep them from going
to jail or someone to save them from losing millions of dollars or
someone to make up for all the inefficiencies, office politics
and procrastinations that led them dangerously close to missing a
Now it’s all on me, the bike messenger. If I succeed it is expected and
I am on to the next tag immediately. If something goes wrong, I’m
expected to fix it. I’m the fall guy. If the client had the wrong
address, or the wrong contact name, it doesn’t matter. I will be
expected to spend some time trying to fix the problem and save the
client. Some companies will charge extra for the time, others will not.
Most will charge some of the time but ultimately I will not know if I
will be paid for my extra time and effort until long after the tag is
This will be the 13th year that the award is presented. It was started
by Buffalo Bill in 1998, to remember Markus and to draw attention to
messengers whose work benefits all of us.
IFBMA’s Markus Cook Award page:
“The MCA for services to the International Messenger
Community is not a prize for winning a race. At the time the Award was
conceived, CMWC was beginning to be more about the racing than the
happening. I [Buffalo
Bill] wanted to re-establish the spirit of the championships, to
restate the reason that we all come to this event every year. The MCA
is a reflection of the axiom that everyone who comes to a CMWC is a
winner, whether they race or not.
Markus himself was very much in love with the CMWC, and
in many ways he was the unlikeliest bike racer imaginable. He was
several other things, of course. Editor of Mercury Rising messenger
zine, unofficial spokesperson of the SFBMA, leader of L Sid, and a
friend to all. The enthusiasm of Markus brought CMWC and the
international messenger community to San Francisco, and it saddens many
people to this day that he did not live to see it.
This award is for people that inspire and empower the
wider messenger community, that put all of us before themselves.”
La Ocho marks the return of the figure-8 track and CMWC vistis LAtin
America for the first time. Congratulations to everyone who made it
there and special thanks to Nadir and his entire crew for making it
happen. I had nothing to do with it but I'm still so very proud of this
It's not from Panajachel, Guatemala but anyway here is the group
photo from the 1998 CMWC in Washington DC.
Toronto cyclists will be holding a ride of silence for slain cyclist
Darcy Allan Sheppard at 1pm on Sunday August 29, 2010. The ride starts
at Bloor and Avenue Rd.
The ride will be followed by a candlelight vigil later that evening
around 7:30pm at Bay and Bloor.
The ride and vigil will commemorate the first anniversary of Sheppard’s
death on August 31, 2009.
Sheppard’s courier friend’s Uncle Dropsi and Sunny D have release a song
video to remember him.
The 33-year old Sheppard was killed after an attack by former Ontario
attorney general Michael Bryant.
and video evidence
showed that Bryant deliberately rammed his car into Sheppard knocking
him to the ground. Witnesses also described Bryant as intentionally
speeding the wrong way down Bloor Street, mounting the curb and
crashing Sheppard into a fire hydrant and mailbox before fleeing.
Despite video evidence and witness statements, special prosecutor
Richard Peck dropped
charges against his fellow British Columbia-bred lawyer.
Critics of his decision pointed to Peck’s propensity to drop charges in
high profile cases involving government and police officials.
new track about Darcy Allan
In their own words:
This track is about our friend Al, who was
run down and killed in a road rage incident on August 31, 2009. He was
killed by the former Attorney General of our province (like a state)
and the bastard had the charges dropped almost a year later. Many from
Toronto’s – and the world’s – cycling community were absolutely
incensed that there were no consequences to taking my friend’s life.
Anyone who knows, knows. This is our take on it.
edition of 10-9 Bicycle Messenger Radio, We call our good friend Nadir,
El Presidente of this year’s CMWC in Panajachel. We had a pretty good
visit and our lucky 7th program has now been dedicated to shining a
light on an incredible individual whose heart is as big and strong as
the story that made him that way.
Regarding Panajachel, Guatemala; He says “with what little you bring is
going to change this community, and with what little this community has
is going to change your life.”
The CMWC2010 Compilation CD has 2 new tracks on this show and is going
to help financially contribute along with other plans that are coming
together to involve the surrounding villages during the Championships,
I mean if you haven’t heard the wonderful making of a movie here, where
an industry (bicycle messengers) come to visit and leave a lasting mark
and set a tempo that will be historic in it’s proportion onto a
community who wants to help us celebrate. The news is beginning to leak
But that is not why we called him, we know he is a great guy, it was to
help our community understand a little more about the man, if you don’t
know him, the if not already infamous legend Nadir Olivet. Come share a
couple minutes with us.
When a cyclist
is killed by a driver, justice is nearly always stacked toward the
driver. And in this case in Toronto, the scales were tilted even more
By Bob Mionske
On August 31, 2009, the worlds of two strangers collided in the posh
Bloor Street shopping district of Toronto. In the aftermath, one of
those strangers, a bicycle messenger, lay dead, while the other
stranger, the former Attorney General of Ontario and a rising political
star, stood accused of causing the cyclist’s death.
About a year later, on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Richard Peck, the special
prosecutor appointed to try the case, dropped all charges against
Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General accused of causing the
death of bicycle messenger Darcy Allan Sheppard.
I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.
From the beginning, this case involved more than just an encounter
between a cyclist and a motorist gone awry. As I noted in When
Collide , issues of race, class, and power were a subtext to
this case from the moment that Bryant shut off his car’s ignition in
the driveway of a luxury hotel, after fleeing the scene where Darcy
Sheppard lay dying in the street.
An analysis of
Richard Peck’s brief reveals that he relied heavily on the unchallenged
statements of Michael Bryant to come his decision to drop the charges.
Peck cherry picked evidence to support Bryant’s claims and either
suppressed or ignored alternative evidence that challenged Bryant’s
version of the events.
On May 25,
2010, special prosecutor Richard Peck announced that all charges
against former Attorney General Michael Bryant would be dropped ruling
that “there is no reasonable prospect for conviction in relation to
either of the charges before the Court.”
Bryant had been charged with criminal negligence causing death and
dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in relation to the
death of cyclist Darcy Allan (AL) Sheppard after a traffic altercation
on August 31, 2009. Most cases end with the ruling of a judge or jury
but this case ended with the ruling of a single criminal defence lawyer
acting as an independent prosecutor.
Peck released an eleven page brief analyzing some of the evidence and
justifying his decision to drop the charges without a preliminary
hearing of the evidence. His brief answered few questions but also
raised many more.
This is a picture
of my wife’s grandfather, Gordon Mackenzie, as a young Western Union
messenger boy in Dallas circa 1923 (third from left). Gordon died last
year at the age of 96 but was a messenger from the age of 12 to 14.
He’d tell us stories about his Western Union days, and wearing down
three different bicycles while working for the company. His bicycle of
choice was a Pierce-Arrow which was outfitted with a shaft drive
instead of a chain.
The interesting twist to the story here is that Clyde Barrow also
worked for the Western Union as a bike messenger. Gordon didn’t
remember if they worked together, but considering they were only a year
apart in age, the likelihood is high.
For Kevin Keefe, 57, being a D.C. bicycle courier means one thing:
Keefe has been a bike courier for 24 years. He works for Quick
Messenger Service. Bicycling might be his business, but he'll never be
caught behind a desk.
"According to a lot of people, I still haven't grown up!" Keefe said.
Many bicycle couriers like Keefe still make daily rounds in defiance of
the digital age. The Internet may be taking over the messaging market,
but there is still enough business to keep D.C.'s bike couriers
Bicycle couriers often spend rush hour weaving through traffic and
cutting across city parks. Businesses and government offices use them
to move documents and parcels across town.
To those outside the profession, couriers' work might seem dangerous.
"Most friends outside of this job think I'm crazy for doing it, for
biking like an idiot downtown in traffic," said Patrick Peoples, 24, a
courier for LaserShip Inc. "For me, it's a rush."
Couriers work as independent contractors for dispatch services and take
jobs as customers place orders. Dispatchers contact individual couriers
who choose specific deliveries to make.
bicycle messengers are faced with the challenge of riding through
unpredictable traffic to get time sensitive packages to clients. The Bicycle Messenger Emergency
Fund is a 100% volunteer-run, registered charity (no. 20-0842274)
that has been around for a decade. When the unfortunate day comes where
a messenger is injured on the job, the BMEF aids individuals to lighten
the financial burden when they must take time off to recover properly.
Courier Massive is holding its first annual fundraiser for the BMEF MAY
1st, DUFFERIN GROVE PARK
Polo all weekend 11am to 5pm
Alleycat registration @5pm
Gun goes off @6pm
$10 minimum to enter events
President Obama’s budget for the 2011 fiscal
year (which begins October 1) seeks to limit widespread abuses by
employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors in order
to evade their responsibilities.
In a video chat, Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis noted that a
budget is much more than numbers. It “is an expression of the
department’s priorities.” Solis was clear that one of the Labor
Department’s top priorities will be the independent contractor issue.
As part of the 2011 Budget, the Departments of Labor and Treasury are
pursuing a joint proposal that eliminates incentives in law for
employers to misclassify their employees; enhances the ability of both
agencies to penalize employers who misclassify; and restores
protections to employees who have been denied them because of their
The Labor department would receive about $25 million and 100 additional
enforcement personnel to work in support of a new “multi-agency
initiative to dramatically strengthen and coordinate federal and state
efforts to address employer misclassification of workers. “
Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Employment and Training
Administration said that “the goal is to improve capacity to identify
misclassification through increased information sharing and targeted
audits in high-risk industry sectors. These efforts will prevent
misclassification, increase statutory enforcement where appropriate,
and enable collection of payroll taxes previously lost due to
misclassification, such as in the Unemployment Insurance program.”
On August 31, 2009, former attorney general
for Ontario, Michael Bryant, killed cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard in one
of the most violent and horrific cases of road rage in Toronto's
Neither Michael Bryant nor his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan
Abramovitch, gave statements to police regarding the circumstances that
led to Darcy Allan Sheppard’s death. They will have many months to
tailor their testimonies to fit the known evidence and weave it
seamlessly into a vigorous defense mounted by one of the most elite
criminal lawyers in the country.
Bryant’s victim, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who was known as Al to his
friends, will not have a voice at the trial. He will not have an
opportunity to challenge Michael Bryant’s carefully scripted and
rehearsed testimony. He will not have a chance to correct Bryant's
devoted wife and an experienced lawyer when she unconditionally
supports her husband of twelve years on the witness stand.
Al’s voice needs to be heard. It's important that people have an
opportunity to understand his life's last moments. Al could have been
any one of us. He just happened to be the cyclist who crossed paths
with a driver on the verge of a road rage meltdown.
I have attempted to rebuild those last moments of Al's life from his
point of view. All of the events are based on the factual evidence
contained in security camera video, witness statements and news
reports. Al's point of view is also primarily based on the factual
evidence as well as my own experiences as a bike messenger and cyclist.
Toronto like most cities has a massive
problem with bike theft and many of its victims are bike messengers.
The possibility of having my bike stolen is always in the back my mind
whenever my bike is out of my sight and every time I walk out of a
building I am relieved to see my bike still there.
For years most cyclists in Toronto suspected that Igor Kenk, owner of a
notorious used bike store on Queen Street West, played a part in the
stolen bike racket. Anyone that had their bike stolen was first advised
to go and check out "Igor's bike shop" on Queen Street just east of
Strachan. Despite what was common knowledge amongst Toronto’s cyclists,
it appeared that Igor would never be held accountable for his sketchy
dealings with stolen bikes.
I first met Igor in 1993 when his shop was
located further west on Queen St between Shaw and Ossington, across
from the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. At the time I was living on
Shaw Street, a little south of Queen Street and I just started working
as a bike messenger. I was happy to have a bike shop nearby, especially
one that was often open as late as midnight.
Couriers pointed to a unique vulnerability due to exposure to both the
ground-level ozone and particulate matter present in smog and to
exposure to peek levels of pollution together with long-term exposure
to non peak levels.
“Bicycle couriers work all day, year round in the midst of smog. Our
lungs have minimal opportunity to recover from the effects of polluted
air. We are chronically exposed to high doses of dangerously polluted
air for long term, extended periods of time.”
The athletic nature of the profession requires messengers to “spend
more time outdoors, breathe faster and engage in vigorous physical
This danger to couriers is exacerbated by the location of the athletic
activity which means that a bike courier’s “lungs are not more than
about 10 feet from an exhaust pipe for most of the day.”
Since the release of “Choking us to death,” many studies have confirmed
Strong, brave, fast and free. No wonder we admire
messengers and their style
For years civilians have watched and
immitated the functional fashion of bike messengers. From bags to
clothing to accessories the bike messenger's influence on urban
lifestyle continues to grow. Why?
Jeffrey Kidder's paper in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, "Style and Action: A Decoding of Bike
Messenger Symbols" concludes that "messenger style is intertwined
with messenger practice." The marriage of style of and function lends
an authenticity to messenger style. And it's a piece of this
authenticity that civilians seek in their immitation of messengers.
In the introduction to the photography book, "Messengers Style", Valerie Steele,
Chief Curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology,
notes that "when high fashion draws on street style, it’s not only
because there is something special about the clothes. It is the
lifestyle and attitude associated with subcultural clothing styles
which attracts attention. Sometimes straight people want to live the
Everywhere you look the media is hyping some new aspect of messenger
culture as the next big thing. And they may be right. Messenger culture
and its youth oriented styles, street edge and outlaw image has been
making inroads into the mainstream since the first Cycle
(CMWC) in 1993 in Berlin Germany.
Since then messenger bags have become the accessory of choice for
office workers and students.
And now recently many urban cyclists have started trading in their city
mountain bikes for the fixed gear bikes associated with bike
messengers. They even refer to messenger events as part of their “fixed
Stylist John Steinberg describes messengers
as being “ahead of their time.” He says “They’ve got that edge. You see
something on a courier. Maybe in a year later it will hit the
mainstream. They’re slick. They’re cool. For want of a better word,
they’re cool. The real world for them is cool.”