Denver's Bike Messengers Are a Union Divided

Bike messengers ride fast and they ride alone, which is why an effort to organize them has hit the skids.

That tension boiled over into a shouting match between Marcus and Jaimie at the Bash. It took place behind closed doors, but the damage was done. Jaimie walked away feeling like her efforts weren't worth her time, while Marcus walked away feeling like he was foolish for trying to incorporate any new blood. For his part, Rich Ryon took a leave of absence from the messenging game to spend more time pursuing a career in engineering.

"I was in a room with eight kegs of beer, tons of bands, tons of bike messengers and their friends and families. I know what to do in that situation," Marcus says. "That situation is my home. I was seeing friends that I hadn't seen in five, six years and I thought it was more important for me to holler at my boy and meet his twenty-year-old daughter who I remember when she was a baby than to tell the bands to get off in ten minutes. I wasn't thinking about nitpicking and micro-managing."

Not many bike messengers are.

"And that's the heart of why things happened the way they did over the summer," Jacobs says. "The great thing that I love about this scene is that I have never liked any organizations. But for some reason, with the bike messengers, I don't have any problems with it. And that's the greatest thing. Here we are with all these 'dysfunctionals,' as some people call us, and we're trying to do the right thing. But it's a bit harder with us because the bulk of messengers are pretty anti-establishment by nature."

"Organizing any group like that is going to be hard," Marcus adds, continuing Jacobs's thought. "I think where I fucked up is that from the beginning I was like, "This isn't my thing; it's our thing. I would say that repeatedly. But what I should have said is, 'This is my thing.' There was a point where I should have said, 'This is what you're going to do; this is what you're not going to do.' But I'm not good with the whole boss thing. I try to be this person of the people when I should have done a better job at keeping some of the people in check. I needed to be a stronger leader, and now I know that."

The experiences of this summer have left everyone feeling tired, so for now, Marcus, with his hand more firmly grasping the reins of the DPBMA, is going to take things slow. There's a race coming up around Halloween — the third annual Messenger Massacre, which he helped create — and Nationals in 2009 is still a realistic goal. Maybe. For now, Marcus is just happy to be riding, to be on his front porch waiting for the pizza man to arrive and the game to start, surrounded by his "family."

He knows that there are people waiting in the wings who could one day take on leadership roles. A group of young kids has been hanging around the scene lately; the messengers jokingly call them Team 8th Grade. They're posers, wannabes, but in one of them, a student from Denver School of the Arts, Marcus sees real potential. The kid contacted him the other day about writing his senior project on bike messengers. He says he wants to be a messenger when he grows up, and that notion makes Marcus chuckle. Marcus says he would never recommend that someone become a bike messenger, but rather that he pursue some other, easier lifestyle. Still, he knows that if it's meant to be, the kid will find his way into the scene. Because for people like Marcus and the messengers gathered on his porch, it's the only life they could ever imagine.

"When I have a good day or a bad day, the beauty at the center of my world is still going out and rolling," he says. "I complain about it sometimes, I fight it, but I tell you, if I have to go three days without riding, I get all squirrelly. I need to go roll and drop some tags. Riding to the park, going along the path, going to Lookout Mountain — it's not the same thing. Give me, like, forty runs to do and keep me occupied. I'm like a machine, and that's what I do. It's all I know, man.

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