Cycling for work and fun

The Press (New Zealand), January 18, 1999

Kev Mair: the city's flat streets are a welcome change.

Being a cycle messenger is not a job, it is a lifestyle choice, says Kev Mair. He is one of a small group of cyclists offering courier services in Christchurch.

"We carry everything from blood and teeth to clutch kits for cars, and everything in between. Most of our packages are A4-sized business envelopes that either need a signature or need to be delivered to a deadline -- in 15 minutes or less," he says.

Most courier deliveries are in the central business district, but he once had just half an hour to get an urgent parcel to the airport. He thought it might be a close call, but he made it with nine minutes to spare.

"We do not congest, we do not pollute, and we do not park on double lines," he says. "We are in and out before anyone can say 'What was that!"'

Kev says he has introduced an international flavour to the local cycling courier scene. He is Scottish, from Edinburgh. He was a farmer when he took on a part-time job as a cycle messenger in his home town.

Once, while working on a remote Scottish farm he wondered if it would be possible to survive without a car. He tried it for a year. It was difficult at first, but he soon found he could do everything by cycling and carrying everything in a small trailer.

"I came to Christchurch to experience a proper summer," he says. "Edinburgh is steep and windy. Christchurch is flat. This city is a pleasant change."

He believes that in the long-term traffic pollution could cause health problems for a city cycle messenger. To compensate for the pollution he eats lots of fruit, vegetables, and fresh products.

At weekends he cycles in the country.

"I enjoy competing on a mountain bike. I get all around the South Island, into the back country, where I can clear out the lungs and be ready for another week in the city," he says.

There is no shortage of work. The entire city is a cycle courier's office. Communication is by cell phone and radio telephone.

Kev says there is potential for a lot more courier work to be dispatched by cycle messengers. "We need to educate businesses. They often do not realise how much can be delivered by a cyclist. We can also carry parcels safely in all weathers.

"Businesses using services such as ours are also contributing to a friendlier environment. We are often able to deliver quicker than opposition couriers in motor vehicles," he says.

About once every two months he gets a punctured tyre. He allows himself three minutes to fix it.

In Edinburgh there are no laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets, although many serious cyclists do ride wearing helmets.

"In New Zealand it's the law so it makes sense to wear a helmet, especially when you are cycling in traffic all day."

He likes the idea of cycleways and cycle lanes in the suburbs, especially if they encourage families and children to cycle. In the central city he thinks we are better without them.

"People will always park on a cycle lane and even if they do so for only a couple of minutes, that's a real nuisance for a cyclist.

"Also, cycleways are close to the kerb and provide a lodging place for broken glass, and dead cats.

That's not so good," he says.

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