Hey drivers – watch out for bike couriers

Bike courier in Chicago. Photo credit: Steven Vance on Flickr

When you park downtown, in a city with bike couriers, please take a good 360-degree look around your car before you open the door.

Many bike couriers have been “doored” – i.e., someone opened a car door suddenly in their path.

“Dooring is a special terror,” said a veteran courier friend of mine, who I’ll call Bill. He’s seen people with “bashed heads, faces, temples, and black eyes” after getting doored.

“Once I grew a third butt cheek from landing on my tail bone after bouncing off a car door and then off my bike. It just swelled up unimaginably. I couldn’t believe it!”

Speed pays, except when it doesn’t

I’ve seen them riding the wrong way down a one-way street with a “red hot” item for delivery that must reach its destination within 15 minutes. They are paid by commission and quick-delivery items pay more. I don’t like to see people sacrifice their own personal safety for a parcel, but many people make this choice because they are “gung ho” and are under pressure to perform.

I met a lot of bike couriers in Vancouver in the 1990s, and it’s definitely a subculture that attracts the daring. They were a great bunch of people – mostly in new careers today, but a few are still in the industry.

Bill is one of them – now a dispatcher in the office, out of traffic. He’s had a handful of accidents in a dozen years on the road, some of which kept him home for a few days. The worst was when he collided with a squeegee guy on Georgia Street and bounced onto a moving car. The result was road rash and some bruises, but nothing was broken.

Bill says drivers need to be more observant when they open their doors and change lanes.

“I see so many drivers taking a 60-percent quick glance into the mirror, but they’ve only got a limited view. So they take their chances. They make it a gamble.”

Check out the couriers on this YouTube video from the US. Yikes!


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