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wanna be a bike messenger

Old 09-10-07, 08:33 AM
  #1  
contador
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wanna be a bike messenger

Hello from spain.I would like to know something and maybe some of you can help me.
Here in Europe bicycle messengering is not very usual.I know there are bm companies in London
and maybe in some other big cities.But fast delivery is more for motrcycles.
My question is:are there bike messengers only in big towns in the USA?
Becuse im thinking about opening my own messengers company but here where i live we are
about 500.000 people.And Im afraid it is not a good busyness.

thanks
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Old 09-10-07, 09:11 AM
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At least in the Western U.S., where I live, bicycle messengers are pretty much a thing of the past. There are still a few, but instant communications by cell phone, fax and computer have just about killed the business. I live in Reno, Nev., a city of about 150,000, and I don't believe we have ANY messengers left.
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Old 09-10-07, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by contador View Post
Hello from spain.I would like to know something and maybe some of you can help me.
Here in Europe bicycle messengering is not very usual.I know there are bm companies in London
and maybe in some other big cities.But fast delivery is more for motrcycles.
My question is:are there bike messengers only in big towns in the USA?
Becuse im thinking about opening my own messengers company but here where i live we are
about 500.000 people.And Im afraid it is not a good busyness.

thanks
I'd recommend consulting with your countrymen who are already established in this industry, you can find some contact information here;

http://www.messengers.org/contacts/#es

Certainly don't take the advice of westerners, many believe the industry is dead despite there still being 12,000 working messengers in North America alone. The estimations of our industries demise are usually based on casual observations without a baseline, or media articles with as much research, sometimes less, than as the casual observer.

There are not many messengers in Spain working on bicycles, many work on scooters, it's the same in Italy and a few other European nations. However that does not mean there is not a market, looking beyond document delivery is usually key. Business & governments are also looking keenly for ways to go "green" and are finding that our services are more extensive than they had previously believed, leading to a small increase in volume as of late.

Good Luck!

Last edited by SamHouston; 09-10-07 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 09-10-07, 10:05 AM
  #4  
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My feeling is that North American cities have bike messengers in the downtown core because scooters really just aren't something common or popular here... certainly not on the European scale.

If you were to open such a business, what advantages would you offer? A scooter or smaller motorcycle doesn't cost a lot of money to run or maintain and it's almost (not quite, but almost) as manouverable even in the most congested downtown traffic. And in general it's more powerful and able to go faster. So what edge will you have with bike couriers instead of motorcycle couriers? Greater range? Not by far - bike couriering is not practicable over distance over, say 15 km max... most messengers here rarely carry a parcel further than 7 km. Faster downtown delivery times? Doubt it, though you of course know your city better. It's possible that you could specialize in lightning-speed delivery within a small dense business area. Lower prices because bicycles don't need fuel or cost nearly as much as motorcycles? Perhaps, but will that even be a noticeable price decrease? Providing a greener alternative? Yep, that's your only advantage. So:

IF:

you city has a fairly concentrated business district with lots of mail circulating there

AND

you can offer prices at least as low and delivery times at least as fast as those offered by motorcycle companies

AND

there is at least some interest in "going green" in your part of the world

AND

especially if you can offer some unique services to serve an existing need that current companies don't address or address poorly

THEN:

you may have success.

OTHERWISE:

I doubt it.
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Old 09-10-07, 10:37 AM
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i wanna be a cowboy









and you can be my cow girl
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Old 09-10-07, 11:32 AM
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ok thanks everybody specially to the midwest cow and his 6 year old son
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Old 09-10-07, 05:39 PM
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Actually cephy bicycle messengers are in greater use per capita for more European cities than North American.

Some of the advantages of bicycles over scooters;

Bicycles don't pollute

Bicycles are faster & more maneuverable in NA traffic than scooters, if the rider chooses & has ability. There is no reason this can't be the case in Euro cities, and it often is. Probably why they (the Euros) win more of our races.

Bicycles park much faster than scooters, are free to park and do not require a parking space.

Bicycles cannot run out of fuel

Bicycles do not require a valid drivers license or vehicle registration

Bicycles go through ice & snow with very little modification, scooters have issues, only the best ride them in ice & snow.

Bicycles cost far less

Bicycles do not add to congestion, and service bicycles reduce congestion

Bicycles can be maintained and repaired for less & in less time & anywhere at all if no part is needed.

Lower top speed is an advantage to safety more often than it is not.

Bicycles can cover as great a distance as scooters, witness Beijing, with all of it's municipality able to access bicycle delivery services.

Bicycles can collect or drop to multiple destinations in close proximity much much faster than scooters, for a combination of the above reasons. Scooter pickup time is more comparable to the car, sometimes 10+ minutes once the address is reached.

//

Scooters have ranges usually equal to bicycles where both are used. Less density, as you move outward from the core, usually means infrastructure developed more exclusively for the car & truck & at higher speeds than in higher density areas. Lower density means collecting and dropping packages over an exponentially wider area making small parcel delivery much more expensive and yet still not enough to sustain a fleet, whether bicycle or scooter, or even car.

In North America the main reason many cities restrict messengers to core areas because there is a perception especially in the south that bicycles cannot travel a distance not measured in blocks. The next reason if not it's equal is sprawl. Where larger cities and older cities are densely developed over a wider area, a city such as Houston has only pockets of high density spread over a wide area and serviced by freeways.

There are myriad reasons why bicycles are preferred over scooters, most to do with parking as I mentioned, but also to do with regulation. If scooters worked better "green" be damned there would be more scooters than bicycles, that's how it would be. But it isn't, and not because we haven't tried it, we have. Scooter delivery vehicles number about 1 for every 40+ bicycle deliver vehicles here in TO.

The greatest reason that some cities in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Chile, & others is simple, ask them and they'll tell you. It's machismo, the perception that your manhood is dependent on how stupidly fast and loud you can be. Not dissimilar from the North American perception of vehicles as status symbols, objects by which you are judged financially & socially. There is a lot of that everywhere though.

(South American cities have good sized bicycle fleets, sometimes equal to scooter & motorcycle delivery, most often not)
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Old 09-10-07, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by SamHouston View Post
Actually cephy
Two h's in my nick They are both there in plain sight. I don't know why that's such a common error.

bicycle messengers are in greater use per capita for more European cities than North American.
Ok. I know there certainly are bike messengers in Amsterdam. But apparently not in Spain, unless the OP hasn't researched things.

Bicycles don't pollute
Bicycles do not add to congestion, and service bicycles reduce congestion
That's why the "green" aspect was mentioned in my post as well as another post above. However, I doubt that most customers will put up with a company that's slower and/or more expensive and/or has a more limited range just to feel a little bit better about easing congestion and not contributing to pollution. You have to offer some obvious and immediate benefits that your competitors don't offer; then the green aspect becomes a nice bonus.

Bicycles park much faster than scooters, are free to park and do not require a parking space.
Do scooters require a parking space? I see scooters around here parked on the sidewalk chained to poles etc. - just like bicycles. As far as I know it's legal too, though maybe I'm confusing it with some other place.

Bicycles cannot run out of fuel
Their engine can though. It's called a bonk. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought a scooter doesn't require very frequent fill-ups due to being so fuel-efficient. And unlike the rider, it does not need lunch time.

Bicycles do not require a valid drivers license or vehicle registration
In some places in NA bicycle messengers are required to be licensed (e.g. Victoria, BC... or was it Vancouver?).

Anyway, we are talking about business feasibility here. Why does your customer care whether the vehicle used to deliver his mail require registration or not? Is this reduction in cost significant enough to trickle down to the consumer and result in lower prices? I didn't think vehicle registration costed that much. I also thought some scooters didn't require a license or insurance... not sure about registration. I know this is the case in North America, but maybe not in Europe?

Bicycles are faster & more maneuverable in NA traffic than scooters, if the rider chooses & has ability. There is no reason this can't be the case in Euro cities, and it often is. Probably why they (the Euros) win more of our races.
It's true, and I said so. Scooters are pretty close though if we're talking about simple manouverability. However, here something that didn't occur to me before: bicycles are faster because nobody really cares if cyclists follow the rules of the road or not. Messengers run red lights and ride on sidewalks all the time, with basically no one to stop them. But try that on a motorcycle, and you'll get busted pretty quickly. So I'm afraid the advantage here really is "cyclists can get away with a lot more".

Bicycles go through ice & snow with very little modification, scooters have issues, only the best ride them in ice & snow.
Is that really much of a consideration for Spain if you're not in the mountains?

Bicycles cost far less
Bicycles can be maintained and repaired for less & in less time & anywhere at all if no part is needed.
Agreed. And savings can be significant here.

Lower top speed is an advantage to safety more often than it is not.
Depends on the skill of the rider. Again, does it really matter to a company whether its mail gets delivered by safe train or by unsafe (by comparison) car, if they get there at the same time?

Bicycles can cover as great a distance as scooters
I know, bicycles can go around the world. They'll take longer doing that than scooters though.

witness Beijing, with all of it's municipality able to access bicycle delivery services.
Good; it must be working for them. High density no doubt contributes to the success of bike messenger companies there. I doubt that bicycle delivery folks in Beijing are sent on cross-town assignments though.

Bicycles can collect or drop to multiple destinations in close proximity much much faster than scooters, for a combination of the above reasons.
That's why I said that IF there is a small concentrated business area in the OP's town which is the business heart of the city, then a bicycle messenger company might work.

However, come to think of it, I don't know of too many companies that are exclusively bicycle. Even a firm that sends 90% of its mail to the next building will occasionally want something relayed further forward. Most companies I know of maintain a fleet of bikes, cars and trucks, and use whichever tool is best for any given delivery. Yes, there are exceptions, of course, but I feel they are indeed exceptions.

In North America the main reason many cities restrict messengers to core areas because there is a perception especially in the south that bicycles cannot travel a distance not measured in blocks. The next reason if not it's equal is sprawl. Where larger cities and older cities are densely developed over a wider area, a city such as Houston has only pockets of high density spread over a wide area and serviced by freeways.
Cities don't restrict messengers. Messenger companies do. Because it makes financial sense. Even though in Toronto, for example, you could easily travel on ordinary streets (as opposed to freeways) to get just about anywhere. But no one's gonna send a bike messenger on a run 30 km away. Or even 15. 10 is about the upper limit as far as I know.

If scooters worked better "green" be damned there would be more scooters than bicycles, that's how it would be. But it isn't
Well, but apparently it IS, where the OP lives anyhow.

The greatest reason that some cities in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Chile, & others is simple, ask them and they'll tell you. It's machismo, the perception that your manhood is dependent on how stupidly fast and loud you can be.
Are you saying that businesses put machismo over profits? Doubt that. Or that it's important to business owners that their mail gets delivered by fast noisy vehicles? Well, then they won't use bicycle messenger companies, would they?
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Old 09-10-07, 08:45 PM
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You're in Reno too huh?

The only places I can think of off the top of my head that have Bike Messengers are New York City and San Francisco, and maybe Boston too, that is a guess.
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Old 09-11-07, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by contador View Post
ok thanks everybody specially to the midwest cow and his 6 year old son
hehehe. my 6yo son is too young to remember that song.....but i'm sure he'd like it.
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Old 09-11-07, 08:32 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Two h's in my nick They are both there in plain sight. I don't know why that's such a common error.

Ok. I know there certainly are bike messengers in Amsterdam. But apparently not in Spain, unless the OP hasn't researched things.
Sorry about that name thing,

There are bike messengers in 11 Spanish municipalities. No European nation lacks bike messengers, but some have thousands were others have only hundreds.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
That's why the "green" aspect was mentioned in my post as well as another post above. However, I doubt that most customers will put up with a company that's slower and/or more expensive and/or has a more limited range just to feel a little bit better about easing congestion and not contributing to pollution. You have to offer some obvious and immediate benefits that your competitors don't offer; then the green aspect becomes a nice bonus.
Most companies maintain full fleets in Toronto, this means walkers, transit delivery, bicycle (long and short range crews), cars, vans and usually a cube truck or two. This is standard practice in most areas, though it is possible to operate a foot/bike only service & allow a partner agency to deliver longer range or overflow work. The larger messenger companies in Toronto accept contracts from many smaller firms on a daily basis.

Oh and many companies will select the greener service based on that aspect alone these days, thankfully. I've sold an account or two that way.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Do scooters require a parking space? I see scooters around here parked on the sidewalk chained to poles etc. - just like bicycles. As far as I know it's legal too, though maybe I'm confusing it with some other place.
It's illegal, and it would be enforced if there were even a small fleet. Oil stains, kickstand divots & taking 3x the sidewalk real estate is something the city (and it's residents) would not tolerate.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Their engine can though. It's called a bonk. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought a scooter doesn't require very frequent fill-ups due to being so fuel-efficient. And unlike the rider, it does not need lunch time.
The scooter has no rider? It does, and requires both. An experienced messenger, like any experienced distance rider, doesn't bonk or works through the bonk.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
In some places in NA bicycle messengers are required to be licensed (e.g. Victoria, BC... or was it Vancouver?).

Vancouver, Boston, and, after a fashion, Chicago. However no valid drivers license is required.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Anyway, we are talking about business feasibility here. Why does your customer care whether the vehicle used to deliver his mail require registration or not? Is this reduction in cost significant enough to trickle down to the consumer and result in lower prices? I didn't think vehicle registration costed that much. I also thought some scooters didn't require a license or insurance... not sure about registration. I know this is the case in North America, but maybe not in Europe?
The customer doesn't care the business operator does and more to the point the contractor does. The OP asks after aspects of operating a messenger company.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
It's true, and I said so. Scooters are pretty close though if we're talking about simple manouverability. However, here something that didn't occur to me before: bicycles are faster because nobody really cares if cyclists follow the rules of the road or not. Messengers run red lights and ride on sidewalks all the time, with basically no one to stop them. But try that on a motorcycle, and you'll get busted pretty quickly. So I'm afraid the advantage here really is "cyclists can get away with a lot more".
I don't run lights at all here in Toronto and many messengers will relate a minimum of such behaviour. Bicycles are faster in Toronto because of the 5-10 minutes needed to park in Toronto, sometimes 1-2 blocks from your destination.The bicyclist parks 20 feet from the door, in about 10 seconds. Messengers in Toronto maintain a better record than commuters in Toronto with regard to traffic law compliance, and police themselves with regard to riding on the sidewalk and other embarrassing acts. These messengers that don't comply do not earn money. The image of messengers as a group of punk scofflaws is a media stereotype based on poor observation. People do see messengers, or very often commuters they believe to be messengers, running lights and such. What they do not see are the hundreds that do not engage in this behaviour. Why? That's one you can probably figure out yourself.

Bicycles are faster in Toronto because of the 5-10 minutes needed to park in Toronto, sometimes 1-2 blocks from your destination.The bicyclist parks 20 feet from the door, in about 10 seconds.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Is that really much of a consideration for Spain if you're not in the mountains?
A general answer, he's in Spain, you're in Ontario.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Agreed. And savings can be significant here.
And we're in good shape here in Toronto, the messenger safety handbook published by the TOBMA, their local organization, lists 20 bike shops within the downtown delivery zone, and I can see at least 6 shops not mentioned.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Depends on the skill of the rider. Again, does it really matter to a company whether its mail gets delivered by safe train or by unsafe (by comparison) car, if they get there at the same time?
It is more of a concern to the messenger company operator. A safer fleet has lower turnover and more reliable service. While much is dependent on the skill of the rider, if a higher top speed translates into a higher average speed the consequence of any accident are more severe.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
I know, bicycles can go around the world. They'll take longer doing that than scooters though.

Good; it must be working for them. High density no doubt contributes to the success of bike messenger companies there. I doubt that bicycle delivery folks in Beijing are sent on cross-town assignments though.
In fact they are sent on cross-town deliveries, and they utilize an extensive relay network that delivers packages in far less time than vehicular traffic, and not just one package at a time. Beijing has an estimated 4500-5000 bike messengers, though this estimation is 5 years old. The IFBMA and in fact a local bike store owner here in Toronto are working to establish ties with the Beijing messenger industry.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
That's why I said that IF there is a small concentrated business area in the OP's town which is the business heart of the city, then a bicycle messenger company might work.
Even a small city can support a bike messenger service, witness Sarasota, Florida or Missoula, Montana or Gijon, Spain.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
However, come to think of it, I don't know of too many companies that are exclusively bicycle. Even a firm that sends 90% of its mail to the next building will occasionally want something relayed further forward. Most companies I know of maintain a fleet of bikes, cars and trucks, and use whichever tool is best for any given delivery. Yes, there are exceptions, of course, but I feel they are indeed exceptions.
See above regarding fleet division. In Toronto the human powered out number the car fleets at many companies. This will remain so as long as the city develops up rather than out, as it should. Note that this is among same-day delivery services, though many of the same companies offer overnight service locally and internationally, often at better rates than the larger overnight delivery services.

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Cities don't restrict messengers. Messenger companies do. Because it makes financial sense. Even though in Toronto, for example, you could easily travel on ordinary streets (as opposed to freeways) to get just about anywhere. But no one's gonna send a bike messenger on a run 30 km away. Or even 15. 10 is about the upper limit as far as I know.
15 is more accurate. Think 10k from Queen & Yonge in any direction. I've picked up and delivered to Pearson, but only rarely. Usually a messenger at a company that properly utilizes bikes works below Wilson, east of Woodbine, west of High Park, but I've worked companies that extend beyond those borders, the larger or more elite companies do. These distances are not per package, with proper routing and navigation a 15 km trip across downtown would mean 8-15 pick-ups/drops or so.

With "Cities" I refer to a general perception prevalent in an area. For instance in Houston, Texas there is a separation of 3 miles between Downtown and The Texas Medical Center, both heavily developed with many daily interactions. Only 1-2 messengers deliver between the 2 areas despite repeatedly demonstrating better response & delivery times. The issue is an overt tendency in that area to dismiss alternative transportation between such distances. As the individual does, so does the business owner, even some of the messengers. It doesn't seem feasible despite evidence to the contrary, so it remains unfeasible. There is now a light rail line connecting these areas, one can hope the delivery companies there haven't overlooked that development.

But you see what I mean, here in Toronto a 3 mile journey is a bicycle journey for tens of thousands living downtown & it's outskirts. In Houston a 3 mile journey is viewed as a car journey except by a few dozen hardy souls and about 50 bike messengers (the total of their number, compare that to Toronto which boasts 225-175 depending on the season, Houston has a population nearly double that of Toronto)

Originally Posted by chephy View Post
Well, but apparently it IS, where the OP lives anyhow.

Are you saying that businesses put machismo over profits? Doubt that. Or that it's important to business owners that their mail gets delivered by fast noisy vehicles? Well, then they won't use bicycle messenger companies, would they?
No, I'm saying it's the choice of those being contracted to do the work, it isn't up to the messenger company owner or it's customer unless they intend to offer a standard wage, benefits and tax withholdings. The IC relationship is more common than that of employer/employee in the same-day industry.

There are many ways to make alternative transportation as industry larger, the first is dismissing the notion that it doesn't work. That notion is almost always born of casual observation, not actual study. Those who choose to explore the issue usually find that the industry has much to offer, much to the chagrin of autocentric development it's developers and it's dwellers who prefer to see only cars and trucks on the road.

In Toronto it's estimated that our alt.trans industry keeps 2500 car trips out of the area below Bloor Every Day! If you think that the deliveries wouldn't be done by car if there were no alternative think again using some of the points you made above. There are 225-175 messengers in the area below Bloor.

Now think of NYC, where 2000 bike messengers and a large number of foot messengers work on Manhattan Isle and the surrounding boroughs.

Now think of Beijing with it's numbers twice that of NYC.

Now remember when you see a messenger you see 6-10 cars in that space that aren't there. Do you use a local service? Even household accounts are available, I can recommend several including the one I hold an account with and use when I don't feel like going out.

Last edited by SamHouston; 09-11-07 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 09-11-07, 11:57 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by itsIRIEpat View Post
You're in Reno too huh?

The only places I can think of off the top of my head that have Bike Messengers are New York City and San Francisco, and maybe Boston too, that is a guess.
There are 67 municipalities in the United States that have bike messengers, many have foot messengers as well.

Their populations range in number from Anchorage, Alaska with 1 year round bike messenger, to NYC with it's 2000+ (there's always a few more in summer)
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Old 09-12-07, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by contador View Post
Hello from spain.I would like to know something and maybe some of you can help me.
Here in Europe bicycle messengering is not very usual.I know there are bm companies in London
and maybe in some other big cities.But fast delivery is more for motrcycles.
My question is:are there bike messengers only in big towns in the USA?
Becuse im thinking about opening my own messengers company but here where i live we are
about 500.000 people.And Im afraid it is not a good busyness.

thanks
Riga is full of bicycle messengers. Tallinn and Vilnius aren't. I guess it depends on the cycling culture of the city and just how bad traffic problems are.
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Old 09-12-07, 06:52 AM
  #14  
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Ok. I know there certainly are bike messengers in Amsterdam. But apparently not in Spain, unless the OP hasn't researched things.





OP knows there are a few.Specially in big cities ,Barcelona Sevilla...,and that in smaller cities
maybe 3 or 4 you can find one company no more, but im not sure if they are serious business or
just a bunch of friends green/alternative oriented trying to change the world

Maybe the only way would be triying to get a job as bicycle messenger in a motorcycle messengers company and see what happens .
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