monitors, analyzes and corrects media reporting errors and bias concerning messengers and couriers.

Messenger Institute
 for Media Accuracy

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How to be a Boston Bike Courier

by Quinn
swinney.org, January 28, 2004

Pedaling the wet streets, it’s fast or nothing fast or be damned, taking the tight turn onto Arlington street, sliding my bike between the parked cars and the traffic I try to duck my head below a truck’s mirror but don’t make it and my helmet slams into the ticky-tacky thing, shattering the glass, but by head unaffected, I pedal on, the crack of the mirror's plastic, the shattering of the glass, now in my short-term, something I’ll talk about tonight at the bar. The superiority of the bike, of the body, victory of man-over-machine Pedal, pedal ‘ keep the eyes alert ‘ pedal hard.

From Arlington it’s a broad left turn on to one way Charles Street, a funnel point for vehicles coming from three different avenues who step on the gas out of spite for bike couriers, the dull roar of their engines muted by the humidity, but ever-present behind you, at your side, in front, and you must be ready for the sudden lane change or abruput stop. In Boston the way violate the direction of a one way street is to throw it into reverse and back up againt traffic, the thought processes seemingly being thus: cops will think you’re going forward because your car is pointed forward.

"Don’t use a turn signal because you’re giving information to the enemy." Cabs make left turns from right turn lanes, cut in front of oncoming traffic, use crosswalks as traffic lanes. Bike couriers are invisible or, if seen, treated like bike riding street demons that rose up borne on the sewer gas. In their eyes we are the spawns of the dark, sewer rats that smell little better than our greasy-eyed kin. But you fly! You fly! Tower workers don't understand. Those of you behind the wheel don't understand! You’ve got a dispatcher yacking in one ear, your eye on the traffic and a pedestrian will step off the curb, first instinct is to swerve, but be the roar of the engine you know that you’ve got a SUV the size of a Kansas city mule at your elbow. But you fly! You fly! Still, the SUV speeds up and cuts you off, Fucker.

The only thing to do is slow it down, slow it down. When the SUV passes, fall in behind it and in front of the BMW Coupe, your back wheel a scant 9 inches from his plastic bumper. Bastard on a cell phone probably doesn’t even see you, but fit it in there, slide to the side of the road. Then. Doors opening in front of you. Potholes in the streets. Dogs taking a shit in your lane. Amatuer Riders coming right at you, against traffic. Never fucking swerve into traffic unless you know what is or isn’t at your elbow. But don't worry if you've been doing this for a while, after a few months your an old hat, a veteran. If you’re gonna die, though, gonna die within your first week. Nearly half of Boston’s bike messenger deaths are newbies out to pick up a few bucks. So for those first few days, take it easy, don't push yourself.

Being a dead bad ass isn't gonna impress anyone.


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