2008 - a useless review
31.12.08 by Buffalo Bill
The end of another year. And a good excuse to look back, and fill some space! 2008 was a good year for Moving Target, and an even better year, in lots of ways, for London’s bicycle messengers and their friends, if you leave aside the precipitous fall in money earnt by couriers. It doesn’t look good for 2009, and the reality is that there will be a lot of people working for a lot less than the statutory minimum wage, which is £5.73/hour. Based on a 40 hour week, that is £230. That is the figure that a working London cycle courier should be able to earn, on average, after paying for equipment (bike, PDA, radio, clothing etc), but before tax has been deducted.
If the last deep recession, that of the early 90s, is anything to go by, we can expect to see price wars amongst the courier companies, as they undercut each other’s rates to try and hold onto, and increase, their shares of a contracting market. Some of those rate cuts may not necessarily be passed on to the riders, but most will. That means you will be doing the same miles for less money. Because of the current legal relationship between most courier companies and their riders, there will be not be mass redundancies of riders, but there will be some riders that decide that they cannot afford to keep working, and will drift away. But most will not, and will probably be looking at tough times in the months ahead.
Anyway, I don’t have a crystal ball, so before we hit 2009, and whatever perils and pleasures it may hold, here’s some end of year lists, and Moving Target’s view of 2008.
MOST READ ARTICLES IN 2008
Including only articles that were written in 2008, the most viewed articles related to cyclists killed by lorries. After those, the next 5 most read articles were:
- Messenger Heroes Number 5, Erik Zo
- Cycle Messenger World Champions 2008
- Effri and Chewy run over by lorries in the same day
- Guardian style journalist ‘discovers’ fixies
- Muppet of the Month – April 2008
MOST COMMENTED ARTICLES IN 2008
Comments are important to this site, and if Moving Target did not receive comments, I would probably stop doing this thing. Contrary to what some people have said to me, I do not moderate, edit or delete comments.
- The revolutions will not be televised
- North American Cycle Courier Champs
- Tatooed London messengers
- JoAnne Good has a go at cyclists on BBC London
- Progress, pose and the wrong way to get on a bicycle
HEROES AND HEROINES OF 2008
Number one on the list is Xander, aka westcoastmessenger, aka Obergruppenpistard, who is the man behind House of Pistard. This year he helped raise over £2000 to stop a London messenger from being deported, supported numerous events (not all of which were messenger), not least of which was Millportpoloco, was a constant source of amusement through his blog, and his antics in the flesh. Not least of which was getting his bikini line waxed. Oh, and he managed to print a few t-shirts too, and also somehow managed to keep hold of his job as a bicycle messenger.
The London Courier Emergency Fund
Formed after the terrible injuries to Effri and Chewy, the Fund is something very cool, that was started by the riders for the riders. Not everyone that contributes to the fund is a messenger, but to all the organisers and contributors I offer my salutations and respect. I know that everyone hopes that no-one will need it in 2009, but isn’t nice to know that it’s out there?
Chandra organised the highlight of my year, which was the Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill alleycat. What is it with London’s male messengers and drag? I could speculate about changing gender roles, modern concepts of masculinity, but that would spoil the memories of truly riotous, outrageous event. The pin the dick on the porn star checkpoint was a masterpiece, and the costumes that the girls wore were fantastic.
The Moving Target Polo Team, all of whose members, Janky, Ryan, Kwackenbosh, Little Jon, Vojtech and Safa Brian provided with me with endless entertainment, both on and off the court. They also were involved in a truly titanic game of polo in the Shoreditch Tournament. Nice work, guys, it’s been an honour to have you represent this useless ‘zine.
Cynthia Barlow, of Roadpeace and Jack Thurston, of the Bike Show. Not messengers, but they have done as much as anyone to raise consciousness, gather information and lobby regarding to the continuing problem of London cyclists being run over by lorries, in 2008.
All the managements of all the London courier companies, for the astonishingly negligent record keeping (I am being generous here) that allowed 49% of respondents to a survey recording collision resulting in injuries to riders to say that there had been none in the last 12 months involving their riders. I queried the results with the London Road Safety Unit, and they tell me that they had suspicions that the reported figure was far too low, but that there is no other data available to them.
This reported figure is a disgrace, because it shows that courier company managements are either too lazy to record, even cursorily, the numbers of riders injured whilst working for them, or are actively hiding the true figures. The former, that they are simply lazy, is marginally preferable to the latter, that they are wicked. Either way, I am ashamed of the business that I worked in for the last 20 years. There are a lot of good people in it, indeed, most of my closest friends either worked, or are working in it, but, my word, what a shower we are. The riders deserve much, much better than this.
Anyway, moving on from that sour note, let me recall the high-lights of my year. The two championships that I went to, in Toronto and
Arnhem Eindhoven, were memorable for different reasons. Eindhoven was cool because there was a large contingent of London messengers, which made for a lot of fun. Toronto was cool because I got to see a lot of people that I hadn’t seen in a while, including some the old Moving Target team of 1996, Pete Lord, Andy Capp and Erik Zo. I think that’s the first time since 1996 we have been together in the same place.
As I mentioned before, Faster Pussycat was another highlight, as well as the opening night of London’s Calling. But I can’t close without mentioning bicycle polo. As some of you know, I played a lot of polo this year. It’s a fun game, and I think that people that don’t play are missing out. So I would have to say that, whilst it wasn’t a messenger event, the Shoreditch Invitational was another highlight.
And finally, a word about the forum. The forum is cool! It’s great to see it grow in 2008. For a long time it had hardly any use, but now it’s, well, not exactly crashing the servers in the MT bunker, but definitely humming along. So that’s another highlight too.
Best of luck to all MT readers, and please accept my earnest wishes that you keep the rubber side down in 2009.