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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.

Hi,

A little while ago Jenni Gwiazdowski started up the London Bike Kitchen and has been working tirelessly ever since to help people learn to fix their own bikes. She left her job so she could put more time into the bike kitchen and is one of the most amazingly supportive, enthusiastic and nice people in the cycling community.

The other night, as she worked late in the workshop, somebody stole her bike from outside the shop. We can all understand how that feels, especially as her bike was lovingly cared for with wheels she’d built herself.

The bike wasn’t insured as this was an expense Jenni couldn’t afford when leaving work as it was a choice between buying food or buying insurance.

Jenni gives so much, really doesn’t deserve to have her bike stolen and has no way of replacing it. She helps and supports everybody that comes into the Bike Kitchen including the pack of local kids that come to her to fix their bikes and pump up their tyres.

Please help me raise enough money to replace Jenni’s bike. It would mean a huge amount to me and I’m sure to her too. Anything you can afford would be so gratefully received!

Thank you!

Beth Anderson

Having recently spent an afternoon in the Kitchen building a bike, I can only agree with Beth’s sentiments. Click through here to contribute.

Update! Beth’s initial target of £1000 has been achieved within 24 hours.  That is pretty amazing, thanks to everyone who donated.

“..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.