disappearing messengers have become as popular as track bikes and messenger
bags but this article is about nothing.
meaningless fluff piece from the MCAA. It’s pretends to be about
vanishing bike messengers but only one bike messenger is presented and no
evidence is cited. The real purpose
of this article is to display an exception as the norm. It’s like
those global warming deniers who say look it was cold somewhere in the world
today therefore global warming doesn’t exist.
majority of messengers who work as independent contractors, work for one
company. If they are suspected of working for more than one company their
employer will generally fire them on the spot. Yet the MCAA sought out a
rare exception to give readers an inaccurate view of the industry.
sole purpose is to continue the practice of abusing the independent contractor model in the
messenger industry. The IC model was developed to circumnavigate employment
standards and in the messenger industry it was first employed as an attempt
to permit the use of child labour.
– A Vanishing Breed?
Messenger Courier World Magazine, Winter 2007
Runners, Inc., a small, woman-owned company located in Gaithersburg, Maryland,
(www.runnersinc.com) has been providing courier services in the Washington, D.C.
metropolitan area since 1987. To meet the ever-changing needs of their
customers, Runners’ has expanded services and added trucking,
warehousing, fulfillment and custom services.
Delivering packages in congested areas where parking is
at a premium or nonexistent, can be difficult for traditional couriers with
vehicles. Runners’ relies on the services of Elton Franklin, an
independent subcontract bicycle messenger to make an average of 10 weekly
deliveries in Washington,
D.C. to customers such as:
specialty firms who want to hand deliver marketing products to attract
new customers and thank existing clients;
who want to deliver files, documents and packages;
firms that need over-sized bulky blueprints delivered; and
who wants concert or movie tickets picked-up and delivered.
For over 18 years, Elton has been providing courier
services to satisfied customers on his reliable Cannondale mountain bike,
making an average of 30 daily deliveries. His reputation for service has
created many loyal customers and he works with several courier companies in
addition to Runners, Inc.
When asked why he chose this type of a job, he quickly
replied: “For 15 years I worked in a government office and longingly
looked out the window at people on bikes wishing I could be outside. One
day I just decided to do something about my dream and need for a career
change with more freedom. I walked into the office of a nearby courier
company and signed up as a bicycle messenger even though I didn’t
have any previous experience. They trained me on-the-job and my new career
began. I enjoyed my work so much that I stayed with them for over 15 years
and never regretted my decision even in bad weather. I’m from Chicago and the climate in Washington, DC
doesn’t bother me at all!”
One of the obvious benefits of choosing this type of a
job is that bicycling 30-35 miles every day keeps Elton physically fit. In
fact he doesn’t have or feel the need for a drivers’ license.
When he wants to take a break from his bike, he hops on a metro bus. Washington, D.C.
is becoming more bicycle-friendly through the Metro Bike-’N-Ride
program and cyclists can transport their bikes for free aboard Metrobus in
a special rack attached to the front of each bus. Bicycle lockers and racks
are available at Metrorail stations for cyclists wishing to split their
commutes between bike and rail. Metrorail also permits cyclists to bring
their bikes aboard trains at off-peak times. There are several private and
government organizations that offer helpful information on local bike
trails, commuting, safety, advocacy, the annual Bike-to-Work day and other
bike events, services and initiatives. Many transit systems already have
had the same type of bike racks on their buses for several years including:
Angeles, Denver, Seattle, and
Montgomery County Maryland’s Ride-On buses.
When asked to describe some rather unusual courier
assignments, Elton said that one customer has him routinely deliver the
Wall Street Journal from the 5th floor to the 6th floor in the same
Kevin Joyce, the Technical Operations Manager for
Dispatch Services at Runners, Inc., is very familiar with the bicycle
messenger business. Kevin worked as a bicycle messenger in the early
70’s in Washington,
D.C. for several years. He
remembers making about 20 deliveries per day and earning an average of $80
daily, which he considered a good income for doing what he
loved…riding his bike! One delivery challenge he fondly remembers was
successfully balancing a huge cake on his handlebars for ten blocks. At
that time, he was kept busy delivering press releases from UPI to the
Washington Post; making visits to Congress to pick-up the Federal Register;
and going to the Document Room on Capitol Hill to pick-up copies of new
laws being passed.
The bicycle messenger business continued to flourish
until the 1990’s until the impact of the Information Revolution
changed traditional ways of doing business. Fax machines, modems and e-mail
provided alternative ways of sending documents and the reliance on bicycle
messengers diminished. However, technological innovations continue to
provide new opportunities to process information in ways never thought
possible and this change creates different business needs.
Futurists Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi co-authored
the earth-shattering, futurist classic "Future Shock" back in
1970. In a twist on the term "culture shock," the Tofflers
described in their book a mass disorientation caused by technological
innovations coming faster than most people can grasp. So far, they’ve
been disturbingly correct. A decade later, the Tofflers predicted the rise
of the information age and the Internet in "The Third Wave." The
book explained how the embedded industrial civilization based on social
conformity and muscle power would be replaced by an information and
technology culture dependent wholly on the creativity of the individual
As businesses create new demands, the need for bicycle
couriers will remain. Bicycles provide the ability to easily navigate in
congested cities with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Currently there are an
estimated 500 independent bicycle couriers in Washington,
D.C. and associations such as the District of Columbia
Bicycle Courier Association http://dcbca.org provide support.