23.09.10 by Emily Chappell
My company took me to the National Courier Awards last week (in my capacity as Posh Bird of the Fleet). Have you heard of the National Courier Awards? I hadn’t. There was a big formal dinner at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall. There were suits and speeches and champagne bottles. All the company bigwigs were out in force – along with assorted controllers, telephonists, IT guys, van drivers, motorbike couriers and…
Not a sausage. I was the only one in the room.
To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. Bloody disgusted is perhaps a bit more accurate – especially since a lot of the speakers emphasized how important it was to recognize the contribution of individuals to the industry and remember who makes us our money.
Why did no company (other than mine) think to recognize the contribution of its pushbikes? Is no one aware of just how hard cycle couriers work – pedalling 50+ hours a week, in all weathers and all seasons? Has no controller ever had his job saved by a cycle courier who made it from Bank to Soho in ten minutes flat, when someone else let him down? Has no fleet manager ever had a grateful phonecall from a client, praising the cycle courier who helped them meet their deadline, against all the odds?
Or do we have a bit of an image problem? Perhaps cycle couriers are invisible in the industry – just the little minions who pick up the dregs of work the great exalted van drivers and motorbikes don’t have time for. Perhaps the “freedom” that we all keep going on about translates to our companies as “irresponsibility”. Or perhaps no company wanted to risk a cycle courier getting pissed on all the free wine and mooning Lord Falkland.
I came away from the event churning with righteous indignation and ambitious plans to raise the profile of London’s cycle couriers.
So what should we do?
Well, first of all I suppose we should work out whether we actually want to be recognized. Maybe lots of us would prefer to stay under the radar. Maybe the freedom of the job would be curtailed still further if people actually started to notice us. Maybe no one really cares what their company thinks of them anyway – what really matters is who won last night’s alleycat, and the adulation of every fakenger in town. And, no matter who wins any industry award, we all know which riders are the fastest and the best, don’t we?
But just say we did want a bit more recognition…
Well, there’s London Courier Appreciation Day, which went down a storm last year. As far as I know they haven’t set a date for this year’s yet. But maybe, rather than just accepting the coffee and spanners of your friendly local bikeshops and exengers, we should actually get our companies to contribute a bit. They spend enough time stitching us up and ripping us off – why not pat us on the back and say thanks, just one day a year?
And of course there’s this august site, the first stop for anyone looking to learn about London cycle couriers. So I propose a series of articles, profiling the legends of the London courier scene. And by that I don’t mean the drunkest, the loudest or the stupidest (though they’re all worthy accolades too). I mean the people who show you how it ought to be done. The women and men who’ve been on the road for years, who are fast, efficient, resourceful, reliable, and who give their industry a good name. The people who, when you’re asked what it takes to be a really excellent courier, immediately spring to mind.
So, if you’re a courier – or an exenger, or a controller – get your nominations in now.
Rebecca Reilly: Nerves of Steel, Heart of Gold
Messenger heroes, number 6 - Emily Chappell
Connecting the city - the essence of a London cycle courier
Twenty odd Questions - Emily
Rebel Without Applause
London courier appreciation day, Thursday 26th November
2008 - a useless review
Marcus Cook Award nominations
Messenger heroes, number 5: Erik Zo
Marcus Cook Award 2007 goes to Andy Zalan