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

Messenger Institute
 for Media Accuracy

Start with the facts:

Benefits of messengers

Are messengers reckless?

When is a license just another label?

What is the disguised name for employee?

Messenger Appreciation

Messenger Memorial


Routine Risk in Midtown Traffic Costs a Bike Messenger His Life

New York Times, November 19, 2004

By James Barron

The dance plays out day after day in Manhattan. Big trucks lumber by like circus elephants, pausing when they want, where they want. Bicycle messengers dart around them with moves more daring and more complicated than anything a Balanchine could dream up. A tiny miscalculation, a nanosecond of bad timing, and the dance goes wrong.

Yesterday, a 42-year-old bike messenger tried to slip between a food delivery truck that was double-parked and a police van that was passing it on Eighth Avenue near 49th Street in Midtown. The messenger, whose name was not released by the police, was thrown to the pavement and killed.

What happened in the moment the bicyclist pedaled between the truck and the van was not clear. The two vehicles blocked the view from both sides of the avenue. So even if employees in the hotel or the parking garage on the east side of the street had been watching - which they said they were not - they could not have seen what caused the bicyclist to lose his balance and fall. That left midday crowds to speculate as the police questioned the two food supply employees in the truck and emergency medical workers removed the messenger's body.

The police said that the employee in the passenger seat opened his door, and that the cyclist struck it and fell to the pavement.

But Steve Manning, a vice president of the food supply company, Vesuvio Foods of Edison, N.J., challenged that sequence. He said he was told by his employees that the bicyclist first hit the truck, and was already down when the employee in the passenger seat, who is known as a helper, opened the door.

"Our helper's saying no, he never opened the door until after the impact," Mr. Manning said, "so that instead of our door throwing him into the path of the van, it was the van that threw him into our door."

The police said that an autopsy would be conducted and that they were investigating the accident. The driver of the van received a summons for an equipment violation, the police said last night.

The delivery truck was on a routine run, loaded with eggs, mozzarella, black pepper and carbonated water, among other things, and bound for Ciro Trattoria at 813 Eighth Avenue. The truck stopped in front of the restaurant around 10:40 a.m. Mr. Manning said the driver may have been waiting for a parking space to open up around the corner on 49th Street, where the restaurant has a gate leading to a side door.

At the scene, the driver, who would not give his name, said, "The truck was standing still" when the accident occurred.

The police van, which carries prisoners, was empty except for the officer driving it, police officials at the scene said They also said the messenger had been riding with one hand, and carrying coffee and a muffin. Keeping the bicycle under control when the truck's door opened would have been difficult, they said, adding that the police van had nothing to do with the accident.

Other messengers who passed by after the accident said they recognized the red bike and said the rider was a regular in the mailrooms and lobbies that their rounds take them to. They said that when he pulled between the delivery truck and the police van, he was doing what any messenger would do when a double-parked vehicle was on the horizon.

"This is the risk bike messengers take," said Eddie McCormick, a former messenger who now does home renovation and demolition work. "I know. I used to be one. I quit after I almost got run over by a taxi. This guy was following all the rules, going with the traffic, not against the traffic, and look what happened."


Article Archives
About us
Contact us
Send comments or suggestions, to: mima@messmedia.org

Bike messenger emergency fund