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Running a bike courier service definitely has its ins and outs

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 7, 2004

By Chris Coleman
Titles: Owner, manager and messenger
Company: Crosstown Couriers
Years in business: Seven
Inspiration: Wanted to make money doing something he loves, riding his bike

"Hawaii at Work" features tell what people do for a living in their own words.
Crosstown Couriers
Chris Coleman is a courier and owner of Crosstown Couriers. Photo: Dennis Oda

I like to ride my bike a lot. I started to get interested in working as a bike messenger after I had left Hawaii and moved to the East Coast for the military.

I spent five years in the Army, and my last duty station was the Pentagon. Bicycle messengers are a huge business in Washington, D.C., and I had a good friend who did it there and let me follow him around. The joke, when I asked how to get a job, was, "Show up at any messenger company when it's raining, and there are openings." That's true here, too.

But I didn't go into the business then. When I got out of the military, I was a project manager installing network communications, which I had done in the Army. I pretty much got into the top level of being an installation tech, and I didn't want to move into upper management.

When home and family brought me back to Hawaii in 1996, I wanted an alternative to the corporate world.

I went to work at a local courier company, Mokes on Spokes, which went out of business about four years ago.

In 1997 three of us there broke off to start this business, Crosstown Couriers. The other two have since moved on to other things. So I'm owner and manager of the company, but there's no politics up here. I'm the only one.

I still go out on deliveries all the time. That's what it's all about. I love being out on my bike. There's a lot of satisfaction in it, getting places faster than you can in a car.

The hardest thing for us to deal with are the drivers. Narrow roads and impatient drivers do not mix well with bicycles.

Turn signals would help. I've thought about writing to the car manufacturers to suggest they install them on the cars shipped to Hawaii, because if they are on there, drivers sure aren't using them.

We have eight workers, four full-time and four part-time. We are all contractors, even me. We have no employees. Liability insurance is why; you'll find that with most messenger companies.

We knock on wood a lot, but accidents happen. I've been hit by four cars. One laid me up for most of a month. It was a knee issue.

But overall, I get hurt worse mountain biking than out on the road.


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