Steve "The Greek"Athineos
New York City, b. 5.March.1956 - d. 17.December.2015, Heart Attack, Mother's Messengers.
 

Steve Athineos 


Legendary New York City bike messenger Steve Athineos passed away on December 17, 2015 after a heart attack. Steve was a long time messenger and messenger company owner. He led the successful battle against Mayor Ed Koch's proposed daytime bike ban on Fifth, Park and Madison Avenues that would have made it difficult for bike messengers to continue to work.



Charles Komanoff wrote a wonderful obituary for Steve on Streetsblog:

THE MAN WHO SAVED NYC CYCLING

“Our streetwise Dionysian godhead,” is how one veteran of the 1987 Midtown bike ban protests described Stephen Athineos, who died yesterday of a heart attack in Inwood, where he lived.

Amen. You could also call Steve “the man who saved NYC cycling.”

Without his charismatic field generalship, the rolling demonstrations that mesmerized the city in the weeks after Mayor Ed Koch disclosed his intent to ban cycling on Fifth, Madison, and Park Avenues might have sputtered and died. Without that “bicycle uprising,” as I’ve called it, the open eyes with which New Yorkers regarded bike messengering and all bicycling that summer would have remained closed. And the lawsuit that blocked the ban, with Steve as a plaintiff, might have been summarily tossed out of State Supreme Court as an irrelevance.

A confession: I doctored the quote at the top. In her fond look back at the bike ban protests, which she published in Bicycle USA magazine in 1989, Mary Frances Dunham actually called Steve “our streetwise Dionysian figurehead.”

Steve wasn’t a figurehead in the sense of a “nominal leader without real power.” But he did fit another sense of the word, one that denotes “a bust or full-length figure set at the prow of a sailing ship.” Steve was, that whole uproarious summer, both seemingly carved from stone and alive as any human could be, with a dancer’s grace, an athlete’s swagger, a cascade of tumbling hair, and a forehead brimming with intelligence and conviction.

read the rest on Streetsblog


"We are truly saddened of the loss of a great man it is a sad day in the Messenger world my deepest condolences to your family rest in peace Stephen Athineos we salute you from PISTOLA, Paul Negro, Edwin Man, Edwin Campos, Kenyatta & Doug green Team X-MEN until we ride again RIP My ROAD WARRIOR BROTHER". - Pistola Negron



"I'm lost in words right now.... Steve my brother . ... I love you and never could imagine that i could lose a true friend like you. You always motivated me in so many levels.... calling me Smurfologist... making me feel like i was a big part in your plans as the best messenger company in NYC... you led the way amd showed me true leadership . ... you have had a huge impact on my life and I will forever make your name known to my kids. Steve you are a legend to me and this is heartbreaking to the highest level. My condolences go out to the Greek family..... I will always have you in my mind Steve. RIP.... God bless you my brother" - Edwin Campos



"Lost another great friend.Stephen Athineos, you'll never be forgotten. The guy loved cycling and was a true leader in the NYC bicycle messenger world. We saved each others lives on numerous occasions. We battled the mayor in the 80's when the city chose to crack down on messengers. I loved seeing him in movies about bike messengers because I knew he'd get the story right. He encouraged me when I was gonna turn pro. He is what I want to remember, when it comes to those deadly days. Too many stories to tell. If you were a messenger in NYC during the 80's-90's, you know what kind of man he was!!!
See ya at the heavenly cross roads bro!!!" - James Bethea



"I didn't know. Stunned and upset. How unfair life is didn't need to slap us in the face this way. Steve.
Stephen Athineos dying is one of those things that makes life less rewarding than it should be. Of course we weren't as close as we should have been having both been busy etc. But at whatever points he was in my life that grin of his was so charming. Keep messenging Steve. You're still the man."





The Battle of the Bike Ban - from Time's Up

On July 22, 1987, Mayor Koch stood on the steps of City Hall flanked by his police and transportation commissioners and declared that bicycling would be banned on Fifth, Park, and Madison from 31st to 59th Streets, Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm, starting in September. The ban was a clear attack on bike messengers, who were being scapegoated in the press for the dangerous and congested streets of NYC. Any unbiased observer could see (and still can) that the actual cause of danger and congestion in our city's streets was automobiles. Fortunately, this unfair treatment of one subgroup of cyclist struck a nerve among many others – from activists to commuters to recreational riders – and brought together the cycling community in a spirit of direct action that helped usher in an era of victories for a livable city.

That spirit of direct action rose, as it always does, from the streets. Steve Athineos, a three-year veteran of bicycle messengering in NYC at the time, recently told me his version of what happened 25 years ago. One day in July he was cycling up Park Avenue, delivering a package, when a car sped past him and turned right into his bicycle and his body – an image all too familiar to any of us who regularly ride in New York City. He sat on the sidewalk bruised and bleeding as the police came, checked to make sure the driver wasn't too shaken up, then left without asking him any questions about the event or his injuries – another all-too-familiar experience for New York City cyclists. He rode down to the park on the SE corner of Houston and 6th Avenue, where messengers met daily to decompress and share stories. When Steve complained about the reckless driver and negligent police, several other messengers told similar tales, and their mutual discontent inspired them to rise up and take the streets. Six of them rode side-by-side up Sixth Avenue and forced traffic to slow down behind them all the way to Central Park.

read the rest on Time's Up





Fifth Park and Madison - film about the battle against Mayor Koch's proposed ban on bikes





The Need for Speed - a documentary about New York City bike messengers featuring Steve Athineos




Pedal (2001) - another documentary about New York City bike messengers featuring Steve Athineos (starts at 19:00)