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Toronto's wild riders get a hearty 'thanks'

Lastman declares appreciation day for bike couriers

Toronto Star, October 10, 1998

By Theresa Ebden

Being a year-round bike courier in Toronto is tough work, but Derek Chadbourne says he's proud to be part of an environmentally sound industry that turns the wheels of Canadian business.

And when Mayor Mel Lastman officially proclaimed Oct. 9 to be Toronto's first Messenger Appreciation Day, Chadbourne rejoiced.

"Cars are vile, evil machines that in the last 100 years have claimed the lives of 25 million people, not counting those who die from pollution-related illness," said Chadbourne, 34, an interim chair an as-of-yet-unnamed bike courier group.

"I hate cars; I have no driver's licence; I'll never buy a car. People are really ignorant in them. A lot of people use them as weapons," said Chadbourne, an 11-year courier veteran. "I'm going to make it my New Year's resolution not to even go in a car, ever."

Lastman's proclamation was presented to about 40 couriers at 8.30 a.m. yesterday by Councillor Jack Layton (Toronto-Don River), who praised the city's 500 couriers for a smog-free delivery service.

"They are an incredible group of people," said Layton, a year-round cyclist who serves as chair of the city's cycling committee.

At Standby, the couriers' hangout at Temperance and Yonge Sts., Chadbourne recalled his latest road war with a TTC bus. Cyclists are entitled to an entire lane if they need it, according to the Ontario Driver's Handbook.

"But try telling that to a cop," he said, snickering at cars trying to drive around the yellow road block used to shut off Temperance St. for the early morning presentation. The bike couriers kept the bar up all day.

The notion of an appreciation day came from California, where the 10th month and ninth day was chosen. Couriers often say "10-9" into the radio - cop-speak for "say again."

"We can show them appreciation," said Mohammed Shaikh, the operations manager at Sterling Logistics, a Toronto-based messenger service. "They're out there in all kinds of weather, rain, sleet, snow. Everyone blames the courier when something goes wrong."

Yesterday, Shaikh gave his staff free food and radio rentals, which are normally $4.50 a day. Couriers are paid between $300 and $800 per week before expenses and taxes. A messenger is considered a "broker" who makes 60 per cent commission on delivery charges.

Sitting near the barricade in the afternoon sun, one of Shaikh's employees looked like anything but a broker, in bike gear and colourful beads. Ben Scott, 22, was feeling pretty rich after the free food, and promise of free beer at Standby later on.

"Now that's appreciation," he said.


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