Tag Archives: bicycles

Photo: Keri Wiginton

On paper, bike messengering represents the very worst of post-industrial employment.  The work is physically demanding and it pays very little.  For around $100 a day (sometimes more, often times less) messengers must careen through gridlocked traffic, breaking traffic laws, and risking their own safety in order to deliver the advertising proofs, architectural blueprints, and legal documents that circulate in the downtown cores of major cities.  Injuries are common; workers compensation and medical coverage are rare.

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by Ben Fincham

Like Jeffrey Kidder I spent some time studying the bicycle messenger industry. In contrast to him I examined the European context and undertook an ethnography in the UK – working as a messenger for a couple of years – as well as interviewing messengers across Europe and conducting a European quantitative survey. As such I was interested in this article particularly as many key features of bicycle messengering appear to me to be present in both the United States and in Europe.

My experiences – a decade old now – were marked by low pay and a hazardous working environment. My colleagues, several of whom are still friends, were an eclectic mix of middle class idealists, cycling enthusiasts, people that had difficulty finding regular employment and a few people that seemed to revel in the performance of bicycle messengering and all that this entailed.

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