How Seattle's Messengers Defeated Licensing

via e-mail from David A. Kulczyk

In 1994, Seattle City Council Member Martha Choe tried to license thecity's messengers. The plan was that all bike messengers were to pay a$25.00 fee to be able to ride. A hunting license type tag would be woreon the messengers back. Any citizen could report a messenger for recklessor illegal riding. The messenger would then lose their right to work.

The Bicycle Messengers of Seattle organized several different ways.

1) We contacted the media and explained our position in a positive and"gee whiz, I'm just a working guy" manner.

2) We made small flyers explaining what the proposal was all about,asking fellow citizens to call the mayor (his phone number was on the flyer)and tell him what a waste of city money the proposal is. We then left theflyers with every receptionist, mailroom clerks, court clerks & anyoneelse who showed sympathy or hated the local government. You'd be surprisehow many lawyers supported us.

3) We went to the hearing on mass and explained to the council committee,just how unfair the proposal was, just how poor we were. There were over70 messengers & 2 citizens who spoke against the plan. There was only1 citizen & a traffic police officer (no doubt planted by the powerfulCouncilperson Choe) who spoke in favor of the plan.

4) We did a head count of all the messengers in Seattle. There was nevermore than 100 messengers on the street at any time. In contrast, 3,500people rode bicycles into downtown Seattle every working day! This informationwas from the city itself. The messengers were out-numbered by non-messengers35 to 1! To the average citizen everyone riding a bike and carrying a bagwas a messenger. We stressed that we were the professionals, who caredabout our own well-being & our jobs.

5) We figured that in order to collect $2,500 in revenue, the city wouldhave to spend $100,000 for personel, office space & enforcement.

6) The proposal was worded in a way that would allow citizens to enforcelaws and write tickets, a job that only the police can do.

The proposal never made it out of committee. Martha Choe ended up lookinglike a bully, picking on the working class.

The next election, a bike messenger ran against Councilperson Choe andgot 20% of the vote while only spending $1000.00!


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