Mess Media




Courier saluted for pedal power

Veteran non-motorized messenger Wayne Scott honoured
Lobbied for food-as-fuel, against auto advertisements

Toronto Star, October. 9, 2003
By Neco Cockburn

In a light blue long-sleeved shirt, black tie, sunglasses and black pants, Wayne Scott blends in perfectly as he sits in the shade of office towers at the busy corner of York and Adelaide Sts.

That is, until you look down and see his black-and-blue pair of $170 high-tops, not your average dress shoe.

"I wouldn't be able to do this without these shoes," he says, referring to the pavement pounding and pedal pushing he's done, on and off, in 22 years as a non-motorized courier - one of hundreds in the city who run, walk or cycle to deliver packages.

The 52-year-old will be presented today with the Markus Cook Memorial Award, from the San Francisco-based International Federation of Bike Messenger Associations. It's given each year to an inspirational courier who empowers the messenger community, and will be handed over at noon as part of Messenger Appreciation Day celebrations at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Scott's award stems mainly from a 1998 Federal Court of Appeal victory where he won a case allowing non-motorized couriers to claim a tax deduction of $11 in food per day.

"I was spending all this money to make this pittance, and I realized that it was a cost of employment. I could not do what I was doing without fuelling my vehicle - which was my body - to do it," says Scott, 6 feet tall, 174 pounds (despite eating a ton), burned down from 189 pounds when he wasn't working.The food-as-fuel decision ended an 18-year battle and overturned a policy that regarded personally consumed food and drink as a personal expense.

"We pissed away how many tax dollars for this obvious, intelligent, very basic concept that nobody could understand. For me, it's just another example that we live in a deluded society when it comes to the automobile," he says.

The automobile. The scourge. We'll get to that in a minute.

"A lot of people didn't think he could get it done," says Derek Chadbourne, a former Toronto bike messenger and winner of last year's award.

Chadbourne was on the selection panel for this year's award and calls Scott a "go-getter."

Scott's animated and passionate, especially when it comes to the environment and improving courier standards. He sits on the city's pedestrian committee and in January put forward an idea that all city of Toronto deliveries within an appropriate distance and reasonably sized, must be made with a non-motorized courier.

The proposal is currently making its way through various departments.

"You take all these cars off the roads every day, you've got less gridlock, you've got less pollution, less noise

"It's all better for everybody involved."

Scott's also lobbied against auto ads, writing letters to Advertising Standards Canada complaining about the portrayal of couriers' driving as dangerous.

A few years ago, when a General Motors ad suggested drivers should make deliveries themselves, rather than trusting them to "lunatic couriers," Scott complained that the ad was environmentally seditious.

"They were saying `take the non-motorized couriers and non-polluting couriers, don't give it to them, put another car on the road.'"

The ad was eventually pulled because it was deemed as demeaning to an identifiable group.

Scott doesn't drive, in case you wondered.

He refers to himself as a "walking anachronism."

He started work as a bike courier in the early `80s. In 1988, he was hit by a brick that fell from a construction site on College St., damaging his left shoulder. He eventually recovered and began delivering on foot.

In 1996, he slipped and fell on a wet metal grate on a ramp at Metro Hall, breaking his back - another story.

Couriers had to use a separate entrance in those days - an unsafe entrance, proven by his accident, Scott says. But that changed.

He helped to form an advocacy group, the Toronto Hoof&Cycle Courier Coalition, and got the city to change its policy.

He returned to the streets last year, although his injury slowed him a bit.

He now works as a foot courier for The Messengers International, choosing them after researching the environmental friendliness of various companies.

The company has a dress code, the reason for his shirt and tie.

His actions are well known, and even if younger couriers don't recognize his name, they know his impact.

Scott says he'll continue to fight for rights in an industry where the workers go without such perks as benefits or UI.

"It's slavery, there's no getting around it. Most of the people working in this industry are, when you take the expenses off, working for less than minimum wage.

"What I would like to see is a complete overhaul of the entire industry ...We've signed the Kyoto agreement.

"We have the capability of moving a lot more freight than we (currently) do with non-motorized couriers."

And he's going to try to write those shoes off as a business expense.

"We'll see what they do," he jokes.

"It could be another 18-year fight."

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