Portraits Of Boston: Bike Messenger

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“I’m a bike messenger. I’m waiting for my dispatcher to call me.”

“Tell me something about your job.”

“It’s a challenge—to be quick yet to stay safe. It takes a kind of zen mindset to maneuver through the chaotic city traffic. There are a lot of oblivious people out there. Cyclists might as well not exist. A car can mess you up pretty bad. Your bike can mess a pedestrian up pretty bad. You’re always looking for the slightest hints of what a car will do next; you’re looking into people’s eyes and figuring out what they’re going to do. You make instantaneous judgments and sometimes that lands you on the pavement.

"I’ll put myself down or into the back of a parked car before I let myself take out a pedestrian; that’s what really scares me. They pop up out of nowhere, forgetting that bicycles do filter stopped traffic. Children, tourists, baby carriages, I always give them plenty of space. Often I find myself stopping or sweeping wide just to not startle people, even knowing that I could make it through just fine.

"Cars don’t really scare me. Worst is you just bounce off of them; hopefully a bus doesn’t run you over afterwards. I’ll stop for buses when I have to, but in the city they tend to be big, obnoxious, slow, clunky things that take up a lot of space for no good reason. Can you blame me for squeezing my way through them?

"I work on my bike. The pay is shitty, but I don’t care because I go to bed every night excited to go to work the next day. They tell me to pick up packages at point A, B and C, then go drop them over there. I work on commission: The quicker I am, the more valuable I become and the more money I make. I know that people think that cyclists are often a menace, especially when they’re darting through traffic as if it’s some kind of thrilling obstacle course—isn’t it?—but if you stay smart, everyone will be just fine.”

Portraits of Boston is a project of independent photographer Ivan Velinov. He is regularly sharing some of his favorite portraits with WBUR. Visit his website to see the hundreds of portraits he has taken on the streets of Boston.

This program aired on December 10, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.