Job is a lifestyle for bicycle messengers
Free-spirited couriers hard at work on dangerous
The Edmonton Journal, July 02, 2004
Janet French, With files from Archie McLean and Dana
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
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
"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
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,"
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
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
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.