If you saw the movie, Premium Rush, you probably figured those crazy New York bike messengers must be tamer in real life than they were portrayed in the movie. You’d be wrong. Premium Rush (and Quicksilver, another movie with a bike messenger theme) actually offer a very close portrayal of a professional bike messenger. Bike messengers are paid on commission, based on how many messages they deliver. Financially, it’s in their best interest to go fast – very fast. Safety wise – well… not so much. A recent study found their on-the-job injury rates that required time off from work were 1,300% higher than the national average (and three times higher than dangerous meat-packing industry).
Bicycle messengers are most often found in the central business districts of metropolitan areas. Courier companies use bike messengers because bicycle travel is less subject to unexpected holdups in city traffic jams, and is not deterred by parking limitations, fees or fines that can hinder delivery by motor vehicle. The benefit – messenger by bike offers a more predictable delivery time. The messengers ride eight hours or more per day with the only rest periods being periodic skitching (or bumper-hitching) when a NYC Cab presents the opportunity to the rider. They treasure their bikes (bikes with 1:1 gears are considered particularly cool) and have their own “bike messenger” counter-culture encompassing parties, high-energy drinks, and driving rock music.
The majority of messengers use a bag to carry deliveries and personal effects with a single strap that wraps diagonally across the chest (popularly known as a messenger bag). This style of bag is popular because they can be swung around the messenger’s body to allow access without removing the bag. Their bags have clasps which can be adjusted with one hand (ideal for riding), clips, pockets and webbing loops on the strap for holding a cell phone or two-way radio. Many bicycle messengers also wear helmets and mount lights on their bicycles. Because bicycle thefts are prevalent in most large cities, a lock to secure the bike during deliveries is essential. Simple chain and padlocks are often used, with the locked chain worn around the waist like a belt while riding.
Still don’t believe the movies portrayal is accurate? Check the video below which offers a camera-mounted view of a New York City bike messenger in action.