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:
I spent about thirteen months riding around the city. I feel like the job gave me a unique perspective on a few things:
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.
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.
They have climbable art in Brackett Park. I would have loved this as a kid.
The West Bank punks make some crazy stuff, if you know where to look.
This is a guy who rides around carrying a cup of coffee and has framed tie-dye art hanging from his backpack.
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.
Here are a couple of musicians on the move.
Propaganda is art, too. I would not have seen this political art if I hadn’t been delivering sandwiches.
Sometimes a car parks in the bike lane.
Sometimes several cars park in the bike lane at the same time.
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.
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.
At the end of a late night shift, I started riding home at 3:30 or 4 in the morning.
After the night owls had gone to sleep, and before the early birds had awakened, the city was mine to admire.
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.
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.
Thanks! I agree that it would help to have more lived pedestrian/bicyclist/transit-taking experience among our elected (and appointed) decision-makers.
“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”.
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.
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.
these are beautiful!