A Year as a Bike Delivery Guy

For a year, I was a bike delivery driver for a popular sandwich restaurant. The terms “courier” and “messenger” didn’t really apply because they imply a greater variety of work and a higher status in bicycling subculture than I actually had. I just delivered sandwiches. It turns out that it’s a lot of fun to get paid to ride your bike around all day, even if you have to wear hemmed jean shorts and high-visibility construction-worker-type vests:

high-viz vest and jorts

Be seen. Be safe.

I spent about thirteen months riding around the city. I feel like the job gave me a unique perspective on a few things:

Economic development

The Viking Bar on the West Bank.

The Viking Bar on the West Bank.

The Viking Bar closed in 2006, when I was 20 years old. I turn 30 this year, and there are signs that it might open again. I got to talk to some of the guys who took down the “Gone Fishing” sign and posted the contact information for some company in Edina. I generally like active buildings more than vacant buildings, and I specifically would like this bar because it’s so close to the Humphrey School.

Model of downtown Minneapolis and the new Vikings stadium.

Despite my strong and long-standing convictions against public subsidies for sports stadiums, I delivered sandwiches to the employees of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority with speed and grace.

Art

Brackett Park rocket.

Brackett Park rocket

They have climbable art in Brackett Park. I would have loved this as a kid.

Polar bear vehicle.

Polar bear vehicle.

The West Bank punks make some crazy stuff, if you know where to look.

A man cycling with tie-dye art.

A man cycling with tie-dye art.

This is a guy who rides around carrying a cup of coffee and has framed tie-dye art hanging from his backpack.

Yarn art by Hot Tea.

Yarn art by Hot Tea.

Cool national artist (and fellow New Ulmite) Hot Tea installed this bidirectional piece. It reads “HOT” from the sidewalk side and “TEA” from the street side. It brightened up the desolate sidewalk that connects the West Bank to Downtown East.

Two guys bicycling to band practice.

Two guys bicycling to band practice.

Here are a couple of musicians on the move.

Lincoln and Reagan.

Lincoln and Reagan.

Propaganda is art, too. I would not have seen this political art if I hadn’t been delivering sandwiches.

Infrastructure

A car parked in the bike lane.

A car parked in the bike lane.

Sometimes a car parks in the bike lane.

Cars parked in the bike lane.

Cars parked in the bike lane.

Sometimes several cars park in the bike lane at the same time.

A semi truck parked across the sidewalk, a lane of parking, and the bike lane.

A semi truck parked across the sidewalk, a lane of parking, and the bike lane.

And from time to time the bike lane is not occupied by stationary motor vehicles. We really need to figure out a better way to move cargo in this town.

man hole cover spewing water

Raining from below.

One time, when it was raining very hard in the summer, the manhole covers acted as fountains. I don’t understand the physics of it, but that seems to be the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.

Urban solitude

bike tire tracks in snow

First tracks.

At the end of a late night shift, I started riding home at 3:30 or 4 in the morning.

Sunrise by the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

Sunrise by the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

After the night owls had gone to sleep, and before the early birds had awakened, the city was mine to admire.


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8 Responses to A Year as a Bike Delivery Guy

  1. Rebecca Airmet
    Rebecca September 14, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story and these photos, Scott.

    I especially like the irony of the “clear vision” semi truck, and I’d like to see a manhole cover fountain.

  2. Nicole September 14, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    This was really fun to read. Thanks for sharing!

    Since switching from mostly driving to mostly biking I’m way more aware of where infrastructure is lacking in Minneapolis. Even on the rare car trips I make it’s more apparent to me. Let’s ask for city/Met Council engineers and other policy makers to spend some time biking and busing on different routes through the city at different times of day.

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer September 14, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks! I agree that it would help to have more lived pedestrian/bicyclist/transit-taking experience among our elected (and appointed) decision-makers.

  3. Damien September 14, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    “I feel like the job gave me a unique perspective on a few things.”

    Totally true. This really makes me miss my old job as a courier (’04-’13). I got to deliver daily plans for the construction of the new Walker, the new Guthrie, the new Twins stadium, the Green Line. Paychecks to bars, law-firms and day-cares. Divorce papers and eviction notices. Videos of in-development Target commercials. Camera lenses to photographers. Tax returns. Design proofs. Worship bulletins to churches. Bus tokens to homeless shelters.

    I learned more about the world from being a bike courier than I ever did when I quit to go to college and get a “real job”.

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer September 14, 2015 at 10:15 am #

      I like how bicycling helps you become more familiar with the city and more aware of the changes.

      I didn’t even talk about our customers. Rich marketing types in the North Loop warehouse lofts. Poor families on the 30th floor of Riverside Plaza. Hip hop recording artists on Cedar Ave. Bars, strip clubs, pawn shops, mental health centers, and churches.

  4. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell September 14, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    Great post Scott. It is amazing how different things are and how much more we see and enjoy when we walk or ride a bicycle instead of speed by in a car.

  5. Rosa September 16, 2015 at 8:25 am #

    these are beautiful!

  6. claireb September 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    Great!