Mess Archives - Mess Media







by Joe Hendry, November 10, 2011


“Hey, there’s blood on this envelope!” said Mary, the receptionist.
“Sorry about that, it’s mine,” I answered, pointing to the blood dripping from the knuckles on my right hand.

 “But the cheque is here in plenty of time, right?” I said, in a plea for some appreciation.

 After all, I almost died getting that multi-million-dollar cheque to Mary in less than twenty minutes because she forgot to call it in sooner.

“Yes, plenty of time,” she said as she signed my manifest.

I didn’t blame Mary. It’s the nature of my job as a bike messenger. My job is to deliver one hundred percent on time, all of the time, with no exceptions and no excuses. I never seek appreciation but this one time I hoped for just a little.



You're Killing Me!


By Joe Hendry, September 22, 2010

Toronto Winter

Appreciation is something I rarely experience on the road. I show up every day ready to ride hard in every imaginable weather condition and under any circumstance. In one sense it is understandable. There is little time for appreciation because as soon as I complete one job there may be a more important one already waiting.

Deliver or die. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad weather, traffic, mechanical problems or any other extraordinary circumstance. The client does not care.  They want their package right away; otherwise they would probably call UPS or FedEx.

Although customers seldom admit it, they often rely on the bike messenger to be their hero. They need someone to keep them from going to jail or someone to save them from losing millions of dollars or someone to make up for all the inefficiencies, office politics and  procrastinations that led them dangerously close to missing a major deadline.

Now it’s all on me, the bike messenger. If I succeed it is expected and I am on to the next tag immediately. If something goes wrong, I’m expected to fix it. I’m the fall guy. If the client had the wrong address, or the wrong contact name, it doesn’t matter. I will be expected to spend some time trying to fix the problem and save the client. Some companies will charge extra for the time, others will not. Most will charge some of the time but ultimately I will not know if I will be paid for my extra time and effort until long after the tag is complete.




A bike messenger without a bike


Toronto bike theft

By Joe Hendry, December 6, 2009

Stolen bikes


Toronto like most cities has a massive problem with bike theft and many of its victims are bike messengers. The possibility of having my bike stolen is always in the back my mind whenever my bike is out of my sight and every time I walk out of a building I am relieved to see my bike still there.
For years most cyclists in Toronto suspected that Igor Kenk, owner of a notorious used bike store on Queen Street West, played a part in the stolen bike racket. Anyone that had their bike stolen was first advised to go and check out "Igor's bike shop" on Queen Street just east of Strachan. Despite what was common knowledge amongst Toronto’s cyclists, it appeared that Igor would never be held accountable for his sketchy dealings with stolen bikes.

I first met Igor in 1993 when his shop was located further west on Queen St between Shaw and Ossington, across from the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. At the time I was living on Shaw Street, a little south of Queen Street and I just started working as a bike messenger. I was happy to have a bike shop nearby, especially one that was often open as late as midnight.


Province, accused bike thief settle case - Globe and Mail, December. 4, 2009

Bikes are mine 'unless you have a police report' - Globe and Mail, July. 28, 2008

Bike thefts 'really big problem' - Toronto Sun, July 13, 2008

  Media Stalking the Messengers?

Mess Media, October 9, 2007

What’s going on with messengers and the media?

Everywhere you look the media is hyping some new aspect of messenger culture as the next big thing. And they may be right. Messenger culture and its youth oriented styles, street edge and outlaw image has been making inroads into the mainstream since the first Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in 1993 in Berlin Germany. Since then messenger bags have become the accessory of choice for office workers and students.

And now recently many urban cyclists have started trading in their city mountain bikes for the fixed gear bikes associated with bike messengers. They even refer to messenger events as part of their “fixed gear culture.”

Stylist John Steinberg describes messengers as being “ahead of their time.” He says “They’ve got that edge. You see something on a courier. Maybe in a year later it will hit the mainstream. They’re slick. They’re cool. For want of a better word, they’re cool. The real world for them is cool.”


Being a messenger often is a jumping-off point for people, or perhaps just something they're doing while waiting for their real calling to take off... Some have gone on to be a bit more well-known, and some of these are more well-known than others...



Wired, April 25, 2011

Digital files, cloud computing and accelerating broadband have long put bike messengers on the endangered species list. No matter how fast a messenger is, even a triple rush can’t compete with instantaneous. For messengers, technology is more of a threat than wily cab drivers and potholes.
But, oddly, technology is also what keeps them around. The evolution of software and mobile phones has allowed some messenger companies to work in autonomous cells, rather than as an overhead-heavy hierarchy. A central headquarters is now obsolete, and profit-sharing employees take turns dispatching and making runs.

“Bike messengers will always exist,” says messenger entrepreneur Josh Weitzner, citing all the inventions that were supposed to spell the end for bike messengers but didn’t — the latest being 3-D printers with their ability to produce product prototypes from anywhere in the world.



The Riding Reporter: a ride with the world champion of bike messengers - Ballard News-Tribune, April 13, 2011

Alleycat bike race will bring fun, street cred - Winston-Salem Journal, April 7, 2011

Have ukulele, will travel – News Review, April 7, 2011

Fixie bikes, alley cat races rising in popularity with hipsters – The Voice Online, April 4, 2011

Making speedy deliveries via cargo bike - Downtown Express, March 31, 2011

60 seconds with ... the Delivery Man - Metro, March 29, 2011

Michael Bryant - Our Michael Clayton - Orangeville Citizen,  March 3, 2011

Bike Messengers Allege Police Brutality - Philadelphia Weekly, February 23, 2011

Rider on the storm: A rookie bike courier's first winter on the road - February 24, 2011 ,

Studs on Ice - Torontoist, February 14, 2011

Blizzard doesn’t stop bike courier- Aimes Tribune, February 4, 2011

Extreme Logistics: When it Pays to be Fit - World Trade 100, February 2, 2011

Cargo bike makers carry high hopes - The Guardian, Bike Blog, February 1, 2011

Winter Warriors -  January 31, 2011, Downtown Journal

Brake away bikes -  Tapei Times, January 13, 2011

Don't Kill the Messengers - Houston Press, January 5, 2011

Faux Go Go Go - Houston Press, January 5, 2011

Unemployment Tumbles Amid Slow Jobs Growth - All Things Considered, NPR, February 4, 2011
Book delivery by bike - Franchising, December 2, 2010

Two wheels and a passion - Halifax Chronicle Herald , December 13, 2010

Austrian stars compete in roller racing showpiece - BikeRadar, December 2, 2010

Hear the news? The feds have got Pablo! - The Brooklyn Paper, November 29, 2010

The 100-Deliveryperson Poll - New York Magazine, November 21, 2010

Deliveryman for a Day - New York Magazine,  November  21, 2010

The Courier Triathlon - New York Magazine, November 21, 2010

Council offers bike scheme for deliveries - Irish Times, November 18, 2010

Look, Ma! No movement! Track standing is urban cycling trend that Portland motorists can love - The Oregonian, November 17, 2010

Don't Kill the Messenger 2 alley cat bike race brings 'All Out Warfare' to Madison - Isthmus  - The Daily Page, November 12, 2010

The use of bicycle messengers. An option in the 2010 supply chain? – ETC Proceedings, October 13, 2010

A Man Called Horse - The Red Bulletin, September 30, 2010

Speedy Delivery: Brake-Fast of Champions - Bike Snob, October 13,2010

Stars Get Lessons in Life Out of the Bike Lane - New York Times, October 16, 2010

Chico Bike Courier - Khsl tv, October 5, 2010
Fast technology, slow economy are killing the messenger - San Francisco Examiner, October 10, 2010

The NACCC hits Atlanta's Streets - The Examiner, October 8th, 2010

How to get my job: bike messenger - Westword, October 7, 2010

Cycling gang go green with new messenger service - Bangkok Post, July 12, 2010


October 9th is Messenger Appreciation Day!


This year Messenger Appreciation Day falls on a weekend so most cities will be celebrating on October 8 (10-8)


October 9th is Messenger Appreciation Day!
(10-9 Day) Let's congratulate all bike couriers on the benefits they bring to our cities:

  • a solution to the problems of pollution, congestion and gridlock faced by large urban centres
  • reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the downtown core
  • take up less space on the road and do less damage to the roads than cars resulting in better conditions and streets for all road users
  • increase the safety of pedestrians compared to cars.
  • provide a value added service that continuously improving firms seek out as a means to reduce costs and improve efficiency
  • are ambassadors of goodwill for the city
  • year round cyclists who promote the bicycle as a viable form of transportation and economic development

Toronto's 2009 Proclamation and Portland's 2009 Proclamation
The mayor of  Toronto also proclaimed Messenger Appreciation Day every year from 1997 through 2007.  Other Messenger Appreciation Day celebrations in New York City, Chicago (proclamation) and San Francisco.



Markus Cook Award - call for  nominations


It’s time to call for nominations for this year’s Markus Cook Award for services to the international messenger community.

Markus Cook Award

This will be the 13th year that the award is presented. It was started by Buffalo Bill in 1998, to remember Markus and to draw attention to messengers whose work benefits all of us.

From the IFBMA’s Markus Cook Award page:

“The MCA for services to the International Messenger Community is not a prize for winning a race. At the time the Award was conceived, CMWC was beginning to be more about the racing than the happening. I [Buffalo Bill] wanted to re-establish the spirit of the championships, to restate the reason that we all come to this event every year. The MCA is a reflection of the axiom that everyone who comes to a CMWC is a winner, whether they race or not.

Markus himself was very much in love with the CMWC, and in many ways he was the unlikeliest bike racer imaginable. He was several other things, of course. Editor of Mercury Rising messenger zine, unofficial spokesperson of the SFBMA, leader of L Sid, and a friend to all. The enthusiasm of Markus brought CMWC and the international messenger community to San Francisco, and it saddens many people to this day that he did not live to see it.

This award is for people that inspire and empower the wider messenger community, that put all of us before themselves.




Messenger world championships go to the rookies in Guatemala - Velonews, September 14, 2010

“Bin Laden” played polo at CMWC - dragoness' utterances, September 14, 2010

Panajachel Messengers Race Part 2 - dragoness' utterances, September 14, 2010

Landslides and bike messengers - Connor Boals, September 9, 2010

A Generous Subculture of Bike Messengers - dragoness' utterances, September 8, 2010

The show goes on: Guatemalan landslides challenge Cycle Messenger World Championships organizers - Velonews, September 9, 2010


CMWC 2010  Panajachel Guatemala
CMWC 1998 Group Photo


CMWC 2010  Panajachel Guatemala started. I'm not there but I'm excited!

La Ocho marks the return of the figure-8 track and CMWC vistis LAtin America for the first time. Congratulations to everyone who made it there and special thanks to Nadir and his entire crew for making it happen. I had nothing to do with it but I'm still so very proud of this year's CMWC.

It's not from Panajachel, Guatemala  but anyway here is the group photo from the 1998 CMWC in Washington DC.

CMWC 98 Group




Ride of Silence and Vigil for Darcy Allan Sheppard



Bryant Watch, August 26, 2010

Toronto cyclists will be holding a ride of silence for slain cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard at 1pm on Sunday August 29, 2010. The ride starts at Bloor and Avenue Rd.

The ride will be followed by a candlelight vigil later that evening around 7:30pm at Bay and Bloor.

The ride and vigil will commemorate the first anniversary of Sheppard’s death on August 31, 2009.

Sheppard’s courier friend’s Uncle Dropsi and Sunny D have release a song and video to remember him.

The 33-year old Sheppard was killed after an attack by former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant.

Witnesses and video evidence showed that Bryant deliberately rammed his car into Sheppard knocking him to the ground. Witnesses also described Bryant as intentionally speeding the wrong way down Bloor Street, mounting the curb and crashing Sheppard into a fire hydrant and mailbox before fleeing.

Despite video evidence and witness statements, special prosecutor Richard Peck dropped all charges against his fellow British Columbia-bred lawyer. Critics of his decision pointed to Peck’s propensity to drop charges in high profile cases involving government and police officials.




Apparently (Al Sheppard)

Update: The video is also out!



Uncle Dropsi and Sunny D have teamed up on a new track about Darcy Allan Sheppard.

In their own words:

This track is about our friend Al, who was run down and killed in a road rage incident on August 31, 2009. He was killed by the former Attorney General of our province (like a state) and the bastard had the charges dropped almost a year later. Many from Toronto’s – and the world’s – cycling community were absolutely incensed that there were no consequences to taking my friend’s life. Anyone who knows, knows. This is our take on it.





Film-maker hires cyclist - The Advertiser, August 10, 2010

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Bloodies Self In The Name Of Art - Movieline, August 1, 2010

Chain Gang, Cycling with the San Francisco bike messengers - The Bold Italic, August 2010

The Hammer and Cycle Messenger Service - My Experimental Site, July 30, 2010

Messenger of literary hope - New York Daily News, July 27, 2010

Freewheeling folks ride the bike-messenger rush - San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2010

Meet Junior: Bicycle Messenger Warrior of the Mission - MIssion Mission, July 22, 2010

Bike Messenger: A Job and A Way of Life - Chicago Talks, July 20, 2010

Greenie Wants YOU to Become a Bicycle Courier in Tel Aviv - The Green Prophet, July 14, 2010

Chicago Bike Messenger receives Workers’ Compensation Award - JDSupra - July 14, 2010

How a Southampton family copes in aftermath of deadly fire - Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6, 2010

Padyak Power - Manila Bulletin, July 11, 2010

Digbeth cycle courier firm scoops low carbon prize - Birmingham Post, July 5 2010

In the saddle with the chain gang - The Aucklander, July 10, 2010

Homeless Kids Start Bike Delivery Business - San, July 9th, 2010

Bike messengers deliver condoms as part of Swiss health campaign -  CNN, July 2, 2010

Alley Cat racing rolls back in to Boulder - Colorado Daily, July 1, 2010

Backpedalling on dubious manual - Metro Vancouver , June 29, 2010

Driver Assaults Bike Messenger Downtown -, June 24, 2010

Things San Franciscans Like About Bike Messengers: Everything -  SF Appeal, June 23, 2010

Bike courier wants to curb city's bad cabdrivers - The Whistleblower, June 2, 2010

Purcell makes the break from bike messenger to national champion - Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, June 1, 2010

Over-the handlebar incidents inspire Cycle Courier Art - The Hub, June 1, 2010

Bryant’s charges dropped but PR continues - Toronto Media Co-op, June 20, 2010

Facebook Group - Justice for Darcy Allan Sheppard


This is justice?


When a cyclist is killed by a driver, justice is nearly always stacked toward the driver. And in this case in Toronto, the scales were tilted even more than usual.

By Bob Mionske

On August 31, 2009, the worlds of two strangers collided in the posh Bloor Street shopping district of Toronto. In the aftermath, one of those strangers, a bicycle messenger, lay dead, while the other stranger, the former Attorney General of Ontario and a rising political star, stood accused of causing the cyclist’s death.

About a year later, on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Richard Peck, the special prosecutor appointed to try the case, dropped all charges against Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General accused of causing the death of bicycle messenger Darcy Allan Sheppard.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

From the beginning, this case involved more than just an encounter between a cyclist and a motorist gone awry. As I noted in When Worlds Collide , issues of race, class, and power were a subtext to this case from the moment that Bryant shut off his car’s ignition in the driveway of a luxury hotel, after fleeing the scene where Darcy Sheppard lay dying in the street.


Canada's cycle couriers: in the eyes of the law, roadkill - Guardian, May 28, 2010

W.A.T.T. 28 podcast about the Bryant-Sheppard case
- What's All This Then, May 27, 2010


The Peck Brief – Advocate for the Defence Part 1


Bryany Watch - May 27, 2010

An analysis of Richard Peck’s brief reveals that he relied heavily on the unchallenged statements of Michael Bryant to come his decision to drop the charges. Peck cherry picked evidence to support Bryant’s claims and either suppressed or ignored alternative evidence that challenged Bryant’s version of the events.

Darcy Allan Sheppard
                                            and Michael Bryant

On May 25, 2010, special prosecutor Richard Peck announced that all charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant would be dropped ruling that “there is no reasonable prospect for conviction in relation to either of the charges before the Court.”

Bryant had been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in relation to the death of cyclist Darcy Allan (AL) Sheppard after a traffic altercation on August 31, 2009. Most cases end with the ruling of a judge or jury but this case ended with the ruling of a single criminal defence lawyer acting as an independent prosecutor.

Peck released an eleven page brief analyzing some of the evidence and justifying his decision to drop the charges without a preliminary hearing of the evidence. His brief answered few questions but also raised many more.


Bryant Walks - Now, May 27, 2010

Top Canadian lawyer told he will not face trial over Toronto cyclist's death - Guardian, May 26, 2010

And Justice for all - May 26, 2010

Velo City 2010 at Washington Velodrome - Time Out Chicago, May 24, 2010

Bike Messengers - They treasure independence, skills - May 21, 2010

Neither goatheads nor road hogs nor potholes - BoiseWeekly, May 12, 2010

Save the bike messenger - Cog Magazine, May 9, 2010

Twitter's bike messenger beginnings - TechCrunch, April 27, 2010

Way of s bicycle messenger - Elephant Journal, May 5, 2010

The road rules? - National Post, April 23, 2010

Subcontractual - London Review Blog, April 19, 2010

Denver's Courier Veterans - Urban Velo, April 2010

Dallas Bike Messengers in 1913 - Dallas Observor, April 16, 2010

Michael Bryant’s case put over again. Police re-interview witnesses - Bryantwatch, April 14, 2010

Psycho cycler's revenge - Attacks limo & driver who hit him – New York Post – April 9, 2010

Bike Courier Service a Boon for Santa Cruz – City Hill Press, April 8, 2010

Couriers the latest free-enterprizers on two wheels – Toronto Observer, April 7, 2010

Jamie Staff backs London cargo bike scheme - Bike Radar, March 31, 2010


Neither Pain nor Crowded Streets nor Doom of Industry Deters D.C. Bike Couriers


 infoZine, March 28, 2010

For Kevin Keefe, 57, being a D.C. bicycle courier means one thing: freedom.

Keefe has been a bike courier for 24 years. He works for Quick Messenger Service. Bicycling might be his business, but he'll never be caught behind a desk.

"According to a lot of people, I still haven't grown up!" Keefe said.

Many bicycle couriers like Keefe still make daily rounds in defiance of the digital age. The Internet may be taking over the messaging market, but there is still enough business to keep D.C.'s bike couriers pedaling.

Bicycle couriers often spend rush hour weaving through traffic and cutting across city parks. Businesses and government offices use them to move documents and parcels across town.

To those outside the profession, couriers' work might seem dangerous.

"Most friends outside of this job think I'm crazy for doing it, for biking like an idiot downtown in traffic," said Patrick Peoples, 24, a courier for LaserShip Inc. "For me, it's a rush."

Couriers work as independent contractors for dispatch services and take jobs as customers place orders. Dispatchers contact individual couriers who choose specific deliveries to make.



Mayday, Mayday



Each day bicycle messengers are faced with the challenge of riding through unpredictable traffic to get time sensitive packages to clients. The Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund is a 100% volunteer-run, registered charity (no. 20-0842274) that has been around for a decade. When the unfortunate day comes where a messenger is injured on the job, the BMEF aids individuals to lighten the financial burden when they must take time off to recover properly.

Toronto's Courier Massive is holding its first annual fundraiser for the BMEF MAY 1st, DUFFERIN GROVE PARK
Polo all weekend 11am to 5pm
Alleycat registration @5pm
Gun goes off @6pm
$10 minimum to enter events


Stolen bike found by the "don't steal bikes bro" street team - NYC Massive, March 25, 2010

Montreal Bike Courier Offers Meal Delivery - Midnite Poutine, March 26, 2010

Couple biking from Alaska to Argentina for charity - Vancouver Sun (via Montreal Gazette),   March 21, 2010

In Brooklyn, unifying machines and a win for a Russian bike messenger - VeloNews, March 21, 2010

At Red Hook Criterium, track bikes and brawn required – VeloNews, March 17, 2010

Urban Velo Photo Shoot - Len on Life, March 18, 2010

I Love My Job! - WCIU Chicago, March 16, 2010

Bike Messenger Activism Is a Dangerous Path - LA Downtown News, March 12, 2010

Burlington bicycle courier service deliver - Burlington Free Press, March 11, 2010

Michael Bryant’s case put over until April 14 - Bryant Watch, March 5, 2010

Justice on Two Wheels - LA Downtown News March 5, 2010

Saying ‘sorry’ can say a lot – Toronto Sun, March 4, 2010

Two pints of lager and a go on the bike please: roller-racing takes off in pubs - March 2, 2010

The Bicycle Messenger - ebook short story at Smashwords, February 26, 2010

Bike couriers chase down bicycle thief in wild downtown pursuit - LA Times, February 22, 2010

U.S. Cracks Down on ‘Contractors’ as a Tax Dodge - New York Times, February 17, 2010

Alleycats - London Calling, London Review Blog, February 17, 2010

Cyclist getting his klicks - Winnipeg Free Press, February 9, 2010

What Size Of Packages Can A Bicycle Messenger Carry? - Lokk for atricles, February 5, 2010

Scotland Delivers - Pavement Magazine, February 2010


Obama’s Budget Targets Misclassification of Independent Contractors


Mess Media, February 2, 2010

President Obama’s budget for the 2011 fiscal year (which begins October 1) seeks to limit widespread abuses by employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to evade their responsibilities.

In a video chat, Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis noted that a budget is much more than numbers. It “is an expression of the department’s priorities.” Solis was clear that one of the Labor Department’s top priorities will be the independent contractor issue.

As part of the 2011 Budget, the Departments of Labor and Treasury are pursuing a joint proposal that eliminates incentives in law for employers to misclassify their employees; enhances the ability of both agencies to penalize employers who misclassify; and restores protections to employees who have been denied them because of their improper classification.

The Labor department would receive about $25 million and 100 additional enforcement personnel to work in support  of a new “multi-agency initiative to dramatically strengthen and coordinate federal and state efforts to address employer misclassification of workers. “
Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration said that “the goal is to improve capacity to identify misclassification through increased information sharing and targeted audits in high-risk industry sectors. These efforts will prevent misclassification, increase statutory enforcement where appropriate, and enable collection of payroll taxes previously lost due to misclassification, such as in the Unemployment Insurance program.”


London Courier Emergency Fund get rough ride from art’otel plan - Islington Tribune, January 29, 2010

Some courier companies concerned over Olympic traffic restrictions - News1130 radio, January 28, 2010

Delivering despite the elements - BBC, January 11, 2010

Bicycle Couriers Better the Environment - M2M, January 08, 2010

Bike couriers grappling with enduring snow and ice - The Local, January 8, 2010

Bike Messengers Deliver Despite Weather -  WSMV TV Nashville, January 8, 2010

Cycling on Camera, in New York and Beyond - New York Times , January 5, 2010

10-9 Radio - Episode 2, January 1, 2010


Darcy Allan Sheppard - A Life's Last Moments


Bryant Watch, December 7, 2009


On August 31, 2009, former attorney general for Ontario, Michael Bryant, killed cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard in one of the most violent and horrific cases of road rage in Toronto's history.

Neither Michael Bryant nor his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch, gave statements to police regarding the circumstances that led to Darcy Allan Sheppard’s death. They will have many months to tailor their testimonies to fit the known evidence and weave it seamlessly into a vigorous defense mounted by one of the most elite criminal lawyers in the country.

Bryant’s victim, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who was known as Al to his friends, will not have a voice at the trial. He will not have an opportunity to challenge Michael Bryant’s carefully scripted and rehearsed testimony. He will not have a chance to correct Bryant's devoted wife and an experienced lawyer when she unconditionally supports her husband of twelve years on the witness stand.

Al’s voice needs to be heard. It's important that people have an opportunity to understand his life's last moments. Al could have been any one of us. He just happened to be the cyclist who crossed paths with a driver on the verge of a road rage meltdown.

I have attempted to rebuild those last moments of Al's life from his point of view. All of the events are based on the factual evidence contained in security camera video, witness statements and news reports. Al's point of view is also primarily based on the factual evidence as well as my own experiences as a bike messenger and cyclist.




Choking Us To Death - Science catches up



Ten years ago Toronto bike messengers warned of the dangers of smog to our health in “Choking us to death: The Air Pollution Crisis and Its Effects on Bicycle Couriers.”

Couriers pointed to a unique vulnerability due to exposure to both the ground-level ozone and  particulate matter present in smog and to exposure to peek levels of pollution together with long-term exposure to non peak levels.

“Bicycle couriers work all day, year round in the midst of smog. Our lungs have minimal opportunity to recover from the effects of polluted air. We are chronically exposed to high doses of dangerously polluted air for long term, extended periods of time.”

The athletic nature of the profession requires messengers to “spend more time outdoors, breathe faster and engage in vigorous physical activity.”

This danger to couriers is exacerbated by the location of the athletic activity which means that a bike courier’s “lungs are not more than about 10 feet from an exhaust pipe for most of the day.”

Since the release of “Choking us to death,” many studies have confirmed couriers’ concerns.



For more information read "Choking us to death:the air pollution crisis and its effects on bicycle couriers (1999)"

Long-Term Ozone Exposure and Mortality – New England Journal of Medicine , March 12, 2009

Study links smog exposure to premature death – New York Times, March 12, 2009

Ozone causes 20% of lung deaths, study suggests -  Toronto Star, March 11, 2009


For Athletes, an Invisible Traffic Hazard - New York Times, July 12, 2007

This job could kill - NOW Magazine, July 21, 2005




Strong, brave, fast and free. No wonder we admire messengers and their style


For years civilians have watched and immitated the functional fashion of bike messengers. From bags to clothing to accessories the bike messenger's influence on urban lifestyle continues to grow. Why?

Jeffrey Kidder's paper in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, "Style and Action: A Decoding of Bike Messenger Symbols" concludes that "messenger style is intertwined with messenger practice." The marriage of style of and function lends an authenticity to messenger style. And it's a piece of this authenticity that civilians seek in their immitation of messengers.

In the introduction to the photography book, "Messengers Style", Valerie Steele, Chief Curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, notes that "when high fashion draws on street style, it’s not only because there is something special about the clothes. It is the lifestyle and attitude associated with subcultural clothing styles which attracts attention. Sometimes straight people want to live the life."

Introduction  to Messengers Style  - Assouline Books, 2000
Style and Action: A Decoding of Bike Messenger Symbols -  Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, June 2005
Media Stalking the Messengers? - Messmedia, October 9, 2007




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