Today we give props to the women and men that pedal hard all day through the mean streets of whatever city they work in. An occupation that requires being familiar with the city, as well as strong legs and quick decision making skills, messengering is hard work.
There have been bike messengers for nearly as long as there have been bicycles. There were couriers employed by the Paris Stock Exchange in the 1870’s.
Messengers have played a key role in keeping the business districts of nearly every Metropolitan area running. Unimpeded by car traffic, bike messengers can offer a more accurate delivery time within the chaos of construction zones, unpredictable traffic accidents, and parking difficulties.
Due to the advancements of modern technology, couriers work is being handled more by computers, which have the ability to transfer larger files at a quicker speed than before. This is proving to be difficult for messengers currently employed downtown, as well as those interested in the field. Friends and acquaintances have recently been laid off because their services are no longer needed, and I know this is the case everywhere. As law firms and companies more and more allow digital signatures, much messenger work becomes obsolete.
With the work load lightening, and there being fewer messengers on the road; a history and culture starts to fade. So many advancements in cycling technology, urban fashion, music, and environmental awareness have taken place, due in part to the presence of working messengers downtown. Some may feel that messenger culture has been exploited, or appropriated:
Maybe that is true, but it has also helped get bikes seen on the street more- which is always a good thing.
NYC messengers, as well as other major city messengers have had some conflicts and resistance by other road users, but they have hung tough through adversity, mainly because their services are so vital to the operation of everything downtown.
Sure- there are many things that messengers can deliver that fax machines and computers can’t. I used to make bank deposits for a graphic design firm in Austin, and sandwiches don’t email well. There will always be work for people working on bikes, the lines may just be blurring between those that deliver sandwiches, and those that deliver legal documents.
Whatever the future holds- I got much love for messengers. So this goes out to you
Got the image from M. Green over at Bike Blog NYC
Check out his blog, it focuses on NYC, but he’s got stuff from all over.