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Deghri Messengers is a bike messenger service in Beirut. This means we deliver all kinds of stuff around the city using only bicycles and the power of our own bodies. It’s hard work and takes a special mix of fitness, passion for cycling, city orientation and pure guts.

 

some of the Deghri messengers taking a break from the road

Luckily we’re not on our own. There is an international community of bike messengers – professionals who work on their bikes every day to serve businesses in their respective cities. In the age of the internet, we can feel connected to this community by sharing news and advice online. However, nothing beats actually getting together with hundreds of messengers in one city, and this is what the ECMC (European Cycle Messenger Championship) is all about.

In the championships (this year from 3rd to 6th July in Stockholm, Sweden), messengers come together to hang out, exchange stories and most importantly to race! The goal is to be crowned the fastest messengers in and around Europe.

As a fairly new messenger service, it’s extremely valuable for us to attend the championship, meet other messengers and of course test our riding skills. What’s more, we will be representing Lebanon at this event, the most important in the bike messenger calendar in this part of the world.”

A lot more info on their Zoomal page.

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NervesOfSteelFrom an article I wrote about my good friend Rebecca ‘Lambchop’ Reilly:

“I first heard about Rebecca Reilly sometime in 1995. I can’t remember where or from whom I heard the story. Perhaps it was Markus Cook, unofficial leader of the San Francisco Bicycle Messenger Association, who first told me of her. The tale was that there was a female messenger who was making a journey across the United States, visiting cities where there were messengers, living and working in each city in turn. And that she was writing a book, a collection of messenger experiences. She was reputed to be hard and fast. I was told that she was going to come to the 1995 Cycle Messenger World Championships in Toronto and win.”

Rebecca was a trail-blazer, a leader in the U.S. & international messenger community in the mid to late 90s.  She was crowned Fixed Gear Queen at the 1999 Cycle Messenger World Championships & received the Marcus Cook Award for Services to the International Messenger Community in the same year.  She was President of the District of Columbia Bicycle Courier Association in 2001.  In the same year she published ‘Nerves of Steel’, a unique & unprecedented study of bicycle couriers in the United States.

Emily Chappell, ‘That Messenger Chick’, recently traveled to the U.S., and whilst she was there met and interviewed Rebecca.  Emily then decided to bring Rebecca to England for short speaking tour, and LMNH East, 125–127 Mare St London E8 3RH, hosts the London leg this Saturday at 7pm.

Rebecca will be sharing her memories of her life as a courier, some of which will be guaranteed to appall, all of which will amaze and engage.  Expect frequent obscenity, laughter & tears, as ‘Lambchop’ recalls life before fakengers & fixies ruled the world.

The few remaining copies of ‘Nerves of Steel’, signed by Rebecca, will be available for purchase for £35 (the original print run was only 1000).    Although the event at LMNH is free to enter, guests will be encouraged to buy raffle tickets to defray costs.  The raffle prizes include some London Courier Emergency Fund goodies, a very fine Special Edition Brooks England B17 saddle and some wonderful cycling apparel by Swrve.

As I mentioned in a post on Moving Target, Nelson Vails made me proud to be a bicycle courier (or messenger, if you prefer). Even though I was never even as quarter as good of a bike rider as Nelson, he was what I aspired to be, he was an inspiration. He was part of the mystique of the NYC bicycle messenger scene, along with the comic Messenger 29, and the Independent Courier Association, which beat the evil Mayor Koch and his 1987 mid-town bike ban.

If you don't know, Nelson Vails was a New Yorker who could ride a bike really fast. Really, really fast. He rode the Trexlertown track, winning races, and worked as a bicycle messenger. In 1984 he won the silver medal in the Olympic Match Sprint. He went to be a keirin racer in Japan. (If you don't know what keirin racing is, it's similar to greyhound racing, in that it's a series of circuit races staged for the express purpose of gambling. For more information, see the excellent primer at Keirin, Berlin).

So it was with some delight that I read earlier on today that someone is making a documentary about Nelson Vails. But it's not fully funded yet. The film-makers are asking for $25000 in additional funding. Never mind watching the DVD of Monstertrack XVII or Line of Sight, why not pony up $5 to help get what should be a spine-tingling film onto the screen. For $25, you get a limited edition signed photo of Nelson Vails himself. That is a real piece of authentic New York City bicycle messenger history.

 

“..these Superhighways are central to the cycling revolution I'm determined to bring about. No longer will pedal power have to dance and dodge around petrol power – on these routes the bicycle will dominate and that will be clear to all others using them. That should transform the experience of cycling – boosting safety and confidence of everyone using the routes and reinforcing my view that the bike is the best way to travel in this wonderful city of ours.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, 2009 on the launch of his Cycle Superhighways

ibikelondon has collected this and other quotes from Boris about the Cycle Superhighways, and also about the cyclist lorry problem. Read the whole post, and go along to the flash-ride tonight if you can.

I would counsel, always in the aftermath of a fatal collision, that the incident itself is not prejudged. Most sensible people were sickened by all the revolting innuendo about whether the cyclist in question was carrying shopping, whether she was wearing a helmet etc.

It is therefore wise to stick to the known facts. Women on bicycles are over-represented in fatal collisions with lorries in London. This is not a new trend. Lorries, usually construction lorries, (aka Heavy Goods Vehicles, and also called Large Goods Vehicles in the European Union), are involved of majority of collisions in which cyclists are killed. This is not a problem unique to London. In Berlin, an average of 10 cyclists are killed every year by lorries.

The junction at which the lorry (not a construction vehicle) collided with the cyclist is wide, and heavily traffic-ed, with high volumes of large goods vehicles. It has been the scene of many serious collisions, as the City of London's own map shows. I went along to a Critical Mass years ago in the mid 90s which went to the spot where a friend was killed, on the junction of Mansell Street and Aldgate High Street. This is about 20 metres from where the collision occured last Friday.

I know that there is a lot of talk about how the re-design of this junction is in hand. Don't think that just because the authorities say they are doing something about it that a little (or ideally, a lot) of encouragement from the public to get on with it won't go amiss. The only reason that the media now cover lorry deaths is because people spent time making a fuss, lighting candles and painting the roads.

 

 

Beanbag photo shoot from Moving Target, 1989

Rob Penn writing in the Observer magazine today about the development of cycle fashion – rearranging the words 1980s Rapha Vulpine lycra lurid MAMIL stylish successful – has the following line: 'the “heroin-chic” cycle messenger sub-culture in the late 80s'.

Not really sure what he means. I thought heroin-chic was invented in 1990s, and that the 1980s was the era of power-dressing and busty super-models. Bicycle couriers or cycle messsengers are generally pretty skinny, although not always. Maybe I'm over-thinking this.

Perhaps he was an assiduous reader of Moving Target back then, and he is referring to occasional fashion shoots that Charlie Bayliss like to put in? Anyway, no further prompting needed – here's a Beanbag shoot from a 1989 issue of Moving Target. Ah, Beanbag.

A more innocent age, dear reader – before anyone had conceived of fakengers, hipsters, before most people had heard of fixies. The usual cliché is 'halcyon days', isn't it?

 

Nhatt is a big miss, in lots of ways.  Emily Chappell draws around the hole that she is leaving.

I’d heard of Nhatt long before I actually met her. Back in the summer of 2008, when I was procrastinating my MA thesis and wishing I was a cycle courier, I listened to her effervescent contribution to BBC Radio 4’s City Messengers, where she managed to distil her job’s peculiar mix of romance, suffering and humour, and started daydreaming even more frantically. A couple of months later I was on the road myself.

It still took me a long time to run into Nhatt in person, and by then I’d built up a formidable picture of her as the de facto princess of the courier scene, organizer of highly creative alleycats, up-and-coming cartoonist, contributor of witty articles to Moving Target, sought-after bike mechanic, and subject of the admiration and adulation of countless couriers, wannabes and civilians. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to meet her. She seemed a little intimidating.

Nevertheless, whenever I spotted a female courier, I wondered whether it might be her. Finally, after several months, I passed an unusually pretty girl on a cargo bike on Goodge Street, and she gave me a massive grin and said hello, and that was Nhatt, and that was that. She was nothing like the standoffish and superior queen bee I’d imagined.