To the editors:
Re: Neighborhood News, August 14
A bike messenger who picks up packages for my company came into my office on one of the coldest days last winter to deliver an important package for me. I asked him how he rode his bike in the ice and snow all day. He said "It's hard, but when I finally get home and think about delivering all those packages on time, on a day like today, I feel like a hero." He is. They all are.
This particular ordinance isn't going to change the way in which bike messengers ride. Just because a bike messenger is carrying a license, is wearing an identification tag and helmet, and has liability insurance, doesn't mean they can take extra time delivering a package. The service the client pays for must be met. All messengers are paid to beat the clock regardless of the traffic, weather, etc. If the package is late for any reason, the client complains, the messenger service looks bad, and the messenger suffers morally and monetarily. This ordinance is not going to accomplish what it intends to do. Instead of putting rules and regulations, fines and extra costs to an already underpaid, dangerous job, the ordinance should be offering them solutions that will allow them to slow down, take precautions, and protect them so they don't have to put themselves and others in danger in order to perform their job.
What the ordinance will do is cost the bike messengers money. They will have to pay for a license and lower their standards of service. If they are forced to purchase licenses and wear identification tags and helmets, shouldn't all recreational bikers, rollerbladers, motorcycle and moped riders who ride downtown be forced to do the same? Recreational bikers and rollerbladers pose more of a danger to pedestrians and traffic since they are not professionals. I feel safer having a bike messenger in my path than any of those listed above.
I asked the same messenger why he didn't wear a helmet. He said "It's uncomfortable." I asked him if he thought a wheelchair would be more comfortable. He smiled and responded "10-4." Wearing a helmet is a personal decision, though I would encourage all bike messengers to wear them. I wear a seat belt not because I am afraid of what I'll hit, but what will hit me.
Liability insurance doesn't protect the bike messenger if they get hit, but only if they hit someone else. Maybe all the messenger companies should unite and get a group policy protecting all bike messengers in any type of accident, and include short and long term disability. Unfortunately, the cost of this insurance will more than likely be passed on to the clients, but it's the client's packages that these men and women are risking their lives to deliver. Bike messengers are an integral part of Chicago business. If the city experienced a day without messenger service, the entire city would suffer. We need them, so let's take care of them.
Messenger companies should start thinking about how they can make their bikers' jobs safer without sacrificing income and violating rights. They should be actively involved with this ordinance contributing ideas that are in the best interest to their bike messengers, and reconsider the work conditions under which they force their employees to work. Remember, your employees work without paid sick or personal days, are financially responsible for their own bike repairs, and work without any health care plans or job security. Without your messengers, you don't have a business.
The bike messenger you are cutting off in traffic or aimlessly walking in front of could be the messenger who's carrying the package that could put your job in jeopardy. We need to work together to find a solution, not add to the problem.