Dying Breed

The economy and image take a toll on Dallas' bike messengers

"We can get anywhere in six minutes in downtown. We know every alleyway, every one-way street that it's safe to go up, just every shortcut you can possibly take," Armstrong says. "We know how the flow of the city goes. It's like every city has a bloodstream. We know how to ride that, to flow to the right place."

Mark Finn, vice president of the motorized Special Delivery Service of Dallas, saw the picture the messengers described at a now-closed office several years ago, but he does not agree that his company is trying to run the bike messengers out of business. He admits, however, that his drivers are trying to portray a certain hygienic image that is incongruent with sweaty bikers.

"We cater to kind of a high-end client, and we just feel like the Texas weather in the summer is not conducive to us presenting a professional appearance with a guy walking in after riding a bike several blocks into a multimillion-dollar law firm," he says. "Part of our sales pitch is that we have professional, uniformed, very clean-cut-looking drivers. If a guy is on a bike, then we just don't feel like they would live up to what our salesmen are selling our client."

Look fast, these guys  
are vanishing in Big D.
Mark Graham
Look fast, these guys are vanishing in Big D.

Bike messengers "have their advantages," such as being able to find a parking place, he says, but between the image problem and the difficulty of getting insurance for them, his company decided against using bicycles for deliveries.

"If it works for them, that's great. We just don't think it works for us, but we definitely do not have anything against bike messengers," he says. "They are some of the hardest-working people in the industry."

Myk Frazier, one of the group at the table at what they call "courier corner" Friday afternoon, says he's been working as a bike messenger for four years. Though no one, even clients, is jumping up to say it, the messengers are good for Dallas, and the city's ambivalence toward them is disappointing, he says.

"It's almost like Dallas could do without us, which I know is absolutely not true," he says.

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