Don't Mourn, Organize

Many cultures on this planet believe that the names of people who have departed should never be spoken aloud. The living are supposed to let go. So I find it sometimes difficult to justify keeping a record of those couriers who have passed on. Along with Mishka Hunt, I was given the task of creating a messenger memorial for CMWC 1996, so I collected as much information about departed messengers as I could. Since then various people for various reasons have requested the information, so I've kept updating the list. In doing so, I've developed views that are not shared by everyone, but here they are.

I think one of the motivating forces behind trying to get this information out is that these people all died young. Remembering people's stories, their artwork, or poetry might slightly extend the impact that their all-too-short lives. A life can be short but still greatly affect thousands of people.

In some instances people have only wanted to list those killed in traffic in messenger memorials. I prefer to include everyone's name because they are all part of our community. This includes those that died because of overdoses. Heroin kills and people should be well aware of this fact. Luckily these deaths are on the decrease.

What is sadly on the increase is traffic deaths, and especially those committed intentionally. Putting an end to traffic deaths should be a goal of every BMA. We know that these deaths are not just random "accidents." Very specific factors contribute to hazardous conditions, including driver ignorance and police apathy. Bike messengers spend more time on bike in traffic than any other group. We know more than any other group - including city planners and law makers - what contributes to traffic hazards. We need to fight to be heard and taken seriously by our cities and the media. Traffic deaths will be reduced when human life is valued, cyclists' rights upheld, bike accidents reported properly by police, and when drivers realize that bikes have the same legal rights as cars, that road rage is not seen as a social malady but premeditated assault or murder, when cell phone use while driving is finally outlawed, when pedestrians can't jaywalk with impunity. We have examples of cities where cyclists are respected and traffic deaths are minimal ­ cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. We know bike accidents are not inevitable facts of life; traffic situations can be greatly improved.

Exhaustion, stress, or anger caused by abusive dispatchers and lack of medical care actively contribute to dangerous conditions ­ increasing the possibility of accidents. Couriers being forced to work eleven-hour shifts without lunch is a dangerous condition. The fight for economic stability and job stability is not based on material greed but a desire for safety and well-being. Couriers are safer when they are not forced by poverty to work when injured, when they can afford to keep their bike properly maintained, when they can afford correctional lens or glasses when necessary, when they have enough to eat. I absolutely believe the atrocious working conditions at SFDS contributed to Paul Littell's and my brother's deaths, which is why I believe so strongly in the SFBMA and the ILWU's organizing drive.

Everyone has different views of what happens after death. My personal belief is that those who have passed on do not need our assistance. Those that are still here do. The best thing about the messenger community is just that: community. We can comfort the friends and family of the departed, we can fight for each other's rights and safety, and we can make the time we all do have on this planet as meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful as possible. In living our own lives to our fullest potential, we best honor those that have gone on before us.

Please feel free to make corrections and additions. It would be good to have people's full names and birth dates and post more photos. -America

The above image is a quote from the I Ching that Thomas copied and kept on his wall.

You can help! The Bike Messenger Emergency Fund was devised to aid couriers injured on the job in those crucial first days and also to assist families with funeral expenses. Donations can be made online.