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


Messenger Institute
 for Media Accuracy





Job is a lifestyle for bicycle messengers


Free-spirited couriers hard at work on dangerous streets


The Edmonton Journal, July 02, 2004


Janet French, With files from Archie McLean and Dana Borcea


EDMONTON - In his hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland, bike courier Raphael Faiss has delivered everything from documents to a thermos full of eyeballs labelled "human transplant."


But Faiss has put his courier business on ice for a few days to defend his title as the world's top cycle messenger in Edmonton this weekend.


Nearly 300 bike messengers from 17 countries will streak around the city this weekend at the world championships to showcase the skills they practise on the job daily: weaving around obstacles, carrying parcels and struggling to stay upright on two wheels.


Faiss said his job, where he rides as much as 200 kilometres a day, is a blast compared to being stuck in a cubicle.


"I think it's a lifestyle. Waking up in the morning and feeling like you care about your environment. You feel good doing that," he said. "You feel like you're getting fit all year long. You're outside. You're independent. Each day is different."


The 25-year-old said bike messengers in North America, who are often cursed at for weaving around people and traffic to deliver their goods on time, don't get as much respect as their colleagues in Europe.


"Here in North America, I think being a messenger is tougher. People are more independent. They have to work on their own. They have to struggle all day. I know some couriers from Toronto who (don't have much) to eat at the end of the month. And that's not too easy, I think."


Biker Bill Thain, head organizer of the 12th annual bike messenger event, said Edmonton is the smallest city to ever host the four days of intense biking and hauling. Competitors are surprised at how quiet Edmonton's streets are, he said.


"Downtown busy traffic is all they know. When they ride here, they have people yielding for them, and they just giggle," Thain said.


The events are a chance for bike messengers to network and turn their careers into a competitive sport for fun, he said.


It's also a chance for the bikers to improve their reputation by showing off their skills.


Jean Valery, president of the bicycle messenger emergency fund in Sarasota, Florida, said most bikers aren't intentionally aggressive. They're just trying to get their jobs done on time.


"We need to shine a new light on who and what bicycle messengers are," said Valery. "It's not 'rebel without a cause.' "


But there are perks to the job, too. Riders develop a kinship with others in their field, said Faiss.


"If you are a messenger, you can go everywhere and meet messengers. You always have a place to sleep and you have people to meet. Even if you don't know them, you are a messenger. You share that with them."


Faiss, who has competed in the last three world championships, said there are no prizes for winning the competition, only the opportunity for new friendships. But kicking butt isn't bad either. He said he has enjoyed being a champion for once in his life.

He'll be racing after his title once again on Sunday at Louise McKinney Park.





Send comments or suggestions, to: mima@messmedia.org



Bike messenger emergency fund