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!