Friday, September 4, 2009

Bike Messengers

The recent killing of a bike messenger by a car in Toronto has spurred a great deal of debate about cyclists, cars, and their behaviour on city streets on most popular media here in Canada. It has become quite apparent that some people really don't approve of bike messengers or cyclists in general, and messengers and many other cyclists are quite prepared to hate them right back.

I've got just a couple of things to say here.

Bike messengers are not representative of most cyclists. To put messengers and cyclists into one bucket is like saying that all motorists are just like long haul truckers. The differences between what urban core messengers do and what most commuter cyclists do are huge. Many bike messengers also live in a subculture that is not particularly mainstream, and I think many who bash them are as much annoyed by their failure to meet certain social norms as by how they ride. All that aside, there is something else important to say.

Bike messengers are specialists who are PAID by people working in urban centres to RIDE LIKE THEY DO. People pay them precisely because they can move aggressively through dense downtown traffic. If you've got a beef with the way bike messengers behave, go tear a strip off the nearest downtown office manager, or lobby local politicians to ban the business. Give these people doing something terribly risky in order to make a living a break. As specialized and seemingly reviled as they are, it is no wonder a subculture has grown up around them. They need it as insulation from all us hypocrites.

I am not a Bike Messenger, and Bike Messengers have not approved this message. Hey, waddaya know? I managed to really rant about bike stuff!



Doohickie said...


That's how you're supposed to rant.

Steve A said...

So, are you claiming that bike commuting IS a mainstream subculture?

RANTWICK said...

Doohickie - Maybe not over my lawn, but I have done the crusty grown-up thing. I liked it.

Steve - Bike commuting may be rare, but my guess is that while our affinity for bikes may not be mainstream, much of the rest of our lives is. Perhaps I should have used "community" instead of "culture".

cafiend said...

Rantwick, that was supremely rational and enjoyable to read.

Choosing to use your own muscle and take time from your day to move yourself around automatically sets you apart from a large majority of people who see no sense in it. Messengers and other riders who add flamboyant outlaw behavior to the oddity of pedaling seem not only like aliens, but like aliens with an attitude. Then throw in some oblivious DUIs riding against traffic with a 30-pack dangling from one hand and a cigarette between their lips and you've got one huge mess of idiots on 2 wheels MESSING UP TRAFFIC.

All you can do is dodge the reaper and offer the occasional tactful suggestion about how things might be better. Even that is bound to piss off someone.

Keep up the rational discourse. Try not to take the attempts on your life personally.

Good luck to us all.

RANTWICK said...

Cafiend - Thank you very much. I wasn't sure how that bit would fare with some of my readers, and I'm pleased that you saw the point.

Steve A said...

At least they're not triathletes. Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are triathletes.

cafiend said...

Steve A, please, the term is "tri-GEEK."

Anonymous said...

I live in NYC. I have found bike messengers to be complete dickwads. They are douche bag aliens, and they don't qualify as human beings.

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