Toronto Bike Messenger Association




History of BMA's in Toronto


By Joe Hendry

The Toronto Bike Messenger Association (TOBMA) is the new name of Toronto’s local bicycle messenger association (BMA). Toronto’s couriers have a long history of bringing their community together to promote camaraderie and improve the industry.

A group of Toronto messengers lead by Anthony Farentino created the first association of messengers in 1937. They called themselves the Toronto Messenger Boys’ Association and their goals included a maximum 60-hour workweek at a minimum wage of $8/week. At the time the maximum work week for adults was 40 hours per week but most messengers were working up to 16 hours per day and more than 80 hours per week. In the 1930’s at least one bike messenger was killed in Toronto every year and the city experienced an ongoing epidemic of robberies of bike messengers.

Messenger numbers declined in the following decades with a resurgence of the industry in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Toronto bike couriers’ alleycat races beginning in the mid-1980’s and the establishment of the world’s first courier bar, “Breadspreads”, brought the expanding courier community together. Derek Chadbourne’s zine, “Hideousewhitenoise” gave it a voice.

Toronto’s bike messenger association took on the moniker of the Association of Professional Urban Cyclists (APUC) as a response to the City’s attempt to license messengers in 1991. APUC’s founders included Neville Alexander, Shannon Reiner, Pete Lord and Mike Armstrong.

Led by Red Nic Thompson and Derek Chadbourne, Toronto’s courier community hosted the 3rd annual Cycle Messenger World Championships in 1995. It was CMWC’s first trip to North America and included the release of the compilation CD of messenger bands entitled “Deliver or Die.”

In 1996 an association of Toronto couriers, led by Wayne Scott successfully fought to declare the entrance to Metro Hall’s courier depot a hazard. The new messenger association took on the name of the Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalition (THC3) and the ban on bike and foot messengers using the public entrances to Metro Hall was removed.

On October 9, 1997, THC3 persuaded the municipalities of Toronto, Metro Toronto and North York to declare Messenger Appreciation Day (10-9 Day), recognizing the contributions of bike and foot couriers to the economic and physical health of the city. The Mayor has proclaimed messenger Appreciation Day every year since.

The summer of 1998 brought the first executive elections for the Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalition. The first board consisted of Derek Chadbourne (Chair), Keith MacDonald (Vice-chair), Sarah Hood (Public Relations and promotions), Bill Long (Secretary) and Joe Hendry (Treasurer).  1998 also marked Wayne Scott’s and Hoof and Cycle’s successful fight with revenue Canada to have food declared as fuel for bike and foot messengers. The precedent meant that from then on Canadian couriers would be permitted to deduct from their income a portion of their expenses for food and drink.

With the support of Hoof and Cycle, the 2nd annual North American Cycle Courier Championships (NACCC) came to Toronto in 1999. The race marked the release of the Toronto Courier Coalition’s first “Messenger Industry Handbook” detailing the status of the industry and the rights of messengers under various laws. The race also included the release of the THC3’s report on air quality entitled, “Choking us to death: the air pollution crisis and its effects on bicycle couriers.”

Hoof and Cycle continued on in to the new century and a new generation of messengers on the road has brought new energy and inspiration to the community. In 2006 Hoof and Cycle expanded and updated the industry handbook into the Toronto Know Your Rights manual.

Copyright Mess Media 2007


Back to TOBMA




1937 - Toronto Messenger Boys Association (TMBA)

1991 - Association of Professional Urban Cyclists (APUC)

1996 - Toronto Hoof & Cycle Courier Coalition (THC3)

2005 - Hoof&Cycle - Active Transport Workers Guild

2007 - Toronto Bike Messenger Association (TOBMA)





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