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Infiltration Forums > Private Boards Index > Bicycle Forum > The Economist: "Bike Messengers vanish from the streets"(Viewed 1344 times)
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The Economist: "Bike Messengers vanish from the streets"
< on 7/10/2006 2:18 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Bike messengers vanish from the streets

The Economist
Jun 29th 2006

GRAPHEON, a graphic design firm in Portland, is kind enough to keep a
bowl of sweets in its reception area, not for peckish clients but for
the ravenous bicycle messengers who dash to the front desk bearing
deliveries. These days, however, the bowl is dusty and the Tootsie
Rolls stale. Most of Grapheon's clients prefer to e-mail their artwork.
Look around: bike messengers, the freewheeling mavericks whose tattooed
calves and daredevil stunts once defined urban cool, are slowly
vanishing from America's streets. In New York, the hub of the messenger
world, the number has skidded from 2,500 during the dotcom frenzy in
the 1990s to an estimated 1,100 today, according to Joel Metz, who runs, the website of the International Federation of Bike
Messenger Associations.

The reason is straightforward. High-speed internet, PDF files, digital
photography and digital audio have been eroding bike-messenger revenues
by between 5-10% a year since 2000, or so reckons Lorenz Götte, an
assistant professor of economics at the University of Zurich (and a
former bike messenger himself). The revenue slump has sent wages
tumbling. In 2000, messengers in San Francisco could make $20 an hour.
Now the average is closer to $11.

Bike messengers have survived dire prophecies before. In the 1980s,
doomsayers had predicted that the fax machine would push the profession
into oblivion. Faxes did indeed carve a big chunk out of the business,
but messengers hung on, thanks both to the poor quality of faxes and to
new technology, such as pagers, which allowed prompter dispatch.

Keeping up with the download-and-print world will be trickier. One
strategy is specialisation. The legal system still relies on original
documents, so some messengers cater to lawyers by offering benefits
such as serving subpoenas and filing papers in court. "They are almost
paralegals on bikes," says Mr Götte. Others focus on deliveries that
cannot be made electronically‹architects' blueprints, for example, or
take-out meals.

Paradoxically, although their long-term prospects look wobbly, the
messenger subculture has never been stronger. Their grimy allure is
celebrated in books, films, festivals, and even trading cards. Last
year's Cycle Messenger World Championship, held in New York, drew 700
competitors from 30 countries. Perhaps this signals a resurgence. More
probably, it reflects the urge to honour a tradition that is beginning
to slip away.

Infiltration Forums > Private Boards Index > Bicycle Forum > The Economist: "Bike Messengers vanish from the streets"(Viewed 1344 times)

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