For the Bicycle Messenger, No Roadbed of Roses

published in New York Times, November 10, 1985

To the Editor:

In your article about New York City bicycle messengers and stepped-upbicycle regulation by the police traffic division (Oct. 26) you quotedprofessional advocates, a travel executive and a messenger-service owner,but not a single messenger. My trade was presented as a social ill withouta context.

Not that there is no minority of irresponsible messengers, but thoughyou have in the past given ample coverage to city traffic, the all-timehigh number of cars entering Manhattan - 800,000 compared with 50,000 bicyclists(your figure) - the flood of private commuter vans and buses in midtown,near-universal disregard for traffic signals and the deterioration of thecity's roadbed, you failed to mention these on this occasion. Nor did youstep into your own lobby, where messengers deliver a large part of youradvertising.

Aside from speeding communications in a city whose wealth is based onservice industries and whose postal system is notoriously inefficient,the messenger industry offers a decent day's pay in return for a very hardday's work - to minority teenagers as well as aspiring musicians and actors.

We are abused by pedestrians, sandwiched between buses, sideswiped bytaxis, editorialized against, and we must inhale diesel exhausts. The "bikelane" offers collisions with pedestrians, pushcart vendors and cardoors. The intersection of Avenue of the Americas, Broadway and 34th Streetis terrifying; the biker's traffic light is simply an invitation to gethit.

Like the Jews of medieval Europe, messengers make an objective contributionto the local economy, but are viewed as utterly foreign, existing tenuouslyon official tolerance punctuated by specific harassment. Some of us onthe margins of traffic are from the margins of society as well, lackingtact and communication skills, and would not otherwise be in corporatemidtown - or decently employed. We, was well as pedestrians, deserve betterperipheral vision.

Seth L. Amgott

New York, Oct. 26, 1985


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