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News / City Life

Things you only know if you’re a cycle courier

Oli Abbott, cycle courier
Photograph: Adam Keane

…according to Oli Abbott, 23.

No delivery job is too weird

‘I’ve never been late for a job, because mostly you have no idea what you’ll be delivering. It could be emergency medication. But I’ve picked up a cat box before – no cat, just the box – and a friend once delivered a breast pump.’

Some jobs literally don’t need a bike

‘I’ve been asked to deliver two doors down before. It’s because businesses like jewellers sometimes use couriers as insurance, if their own staff aren’t covered against being mugged in the street. In fact, I once made a delivery within the same building.’

Couriers love to race – there are even overseas fixtures

‘I’m definitely competitive – I like to beat my mates just on a normal work day! But we also have cycle messenger championships. Recently, I went to Brussels to compete at the European tournament, where the race course imitates a day at work. Sadly I got a puncture.’

It’s precarious work, but the community looks after you

‘There’s no sick pay in this job. You could twist your ankle, and that’s you out of the game for two weeks. But we do have the London Courier Emergency Fund, which provides support and financial help to couriers who have suffered an injury at work. Quite often, the money has been raised from messenger races which act as fundraisers.’

One of the biggest hazards for cyclists is smartphones

‘Three of my five crashes have been caused by people on their phones, crossing the road without looking. One of them was a policeman! It didn’t go down well when I told him he should be setting a good example.

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