Thursday, June 18, 2009

How Much Does a NYC Bike Messenger Make (And Owe in Hospital Bills)?

Here's an interesting tidbit from a profile of a bike messenger in the New York Times.

Current ride: I have to ride my girlfriend’s bike because last week my bike got run over by an 18-wheeler. I was on 57th and Sixth, going way too fast. I was on my way to Oprah Magazine to drop off candles.

What happened? I hitched onto a car — you get tired, so you have to grab on to buses and cars and they, you know, pull you. Basically, they slingshot you. I ended up alongside the 18-wheeler. He decided to turn up Sixth, which he’s not supposed to do. I had to make a choice. I kind of clipped a parked car and jumped off the bike to get away from the truck. He ran over my handlebars and rim, the whole front of the bike. I wound up on the sidewalk, and a nice tourist wouldn’t let me leave. The ambulance came but I didn’t want to go. I owe a lot of money to the hospital already from bike accidents. Like, five grand.

Weekly haul: It’s dead now. My paycheck used to be $500 to $550 a week, but now it’s like $280 to $300. It’s all by commission and started to go down a year and a half ago. We never go to Wall Street now. It’s all basically the fashion industry. We risk our lives for models basically, bringing clothes and books to models. It’s all garment bags. Models’ portfolios. And candles.

This guy was pretty young, and I'll bet the pay could have been even better before he got into the business, back in the dark ages when there were no fax machines!

I have to say, though, that bike messengers are one of my pet peeves about living in NYC. I'm sure some of them are well-behaved when it comes to following traffic rules, but I can't tell you how often I see them riding the wrong way on one way streets, which is illegal and incredibly dangerous! As a pedestrian, I do tend to look both ways even when crossing a one-way street, but I shouldn't have to!


Anonymous said...

Those bike messengers, they're something else. Sometimes annoying, yes, but also so brave too. They are another species I am certain.

kat said...

I know, right? Them and the delivery guys. Running red lights without slowing down, speeding down sidewalks, weaving through pedestrians on crosswalks... they're completely insane. And I can't count the number of times I've nearly been run down by one. Only in New York.

Gord said...

No, not just New York. Here in Vancouver too. But no amount of regulation will change it.

It's an interesting parallel to the greed found in the financial services industry. Some people will do whatever they feel they must do to make the coin. And everyone else's safety or money be damned. Selfish people are everywhere. The courier and Madoff aren't much different in personal philosophy; just scale.

1001 Petals said...

I've often thought that must be a yucky job and reading this only confirms that. I bet he could make more working at a coffee shop. Some even provide benefits.

Tom said...

My brother use to be a bike messenger in the city.He doesn't like to talk about...its like he fought in war something and is shellshocked.

K said...

RE: cat, gord: That is silly. bike messengers are not dangerous, they are just more practiced at riding in dynamic situations. If anything, they're the opposite of Maddoff - they do what they love despite making almost no money or health insurance while on one of the most dangerous jobs in the city.

Has anyone on this board actually ever been injured by a bike messenger?

Anonymous said...

Yes - I have been injured by a messenger and have a scar on my right arm (around 4 inches long and 1/4 of an inch wide). The messenger was going up on lex (wrong way!) and went through a red light when the pedestrian had the right of way to walk. Luckliy it was only my arm that got banged up (i stuck it out to protect my body). I now look both ways and am scared to death of messenger and delivery men.

I have a friend who was more severely injured by a messenger and still goes to the doctor for the injuries!