Bike Messengers are 13 Times More Likely to be Injured than Other Employees

There is nothing easy about working as a bicycle messenger in the City of Chicago. Cyclists spend their days hurriedly riding from one location to another, picking up goods and dropping them off at different offices in and around the Loop. These workers are expected to ride in extreme heat, extreme cold, rain, wind, and sleet. Some are expected to ride in the snow. And factors like traffic, pedestrian presence near the roadways, and the limited bicycle parking around the city are not supposed to be an issue for them.

So why do bicycle messengers even exist, and who would voluntarily take a job as a bike courier? The purpose of bike messengers is simple: to transport items a short distance in a cost-effective manner. Companies do not need to worry about paying their bike messengers for gas or parking fees. Each bike does not need to carry individual insurance. And bikes can move about Chicago in a much more time efficient manner than cars. Those who agree to work as bike messengers tend to enjoy riding a bicycle for pleasure. They like to be outdoors, tend to be young, and are overwhelmingly male.

However, it is unclear whether bike couriers know what is really at stake every day they go to work. They probably understand the possibility of an accident, a fall, or an on-the-job injury but they may not realize just how likely they are to encounter harm serious enough to make them miss time for their jobs. It should not be seen as the fault of these messengers as little data has been gathered on the topic and that which exists is not widely known.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002 analyzed just over 100 bicycle messengers in the City of Boston. Through a self-report survey, the researchers were able to conclude how many cyclists were injured on-the-job, how many needed medical treatment, how many were forced to miss time from work, and other factors relevant to the safety of the profession. Among the most important takeaways from that study was the fact that 90 percent of all couriers had been injured while working at some point in their lives and that 70 percent of those workers were forced to miss time from work due to their work-related injuries. When compared to the population at large, this meant that the bicycle messengers in the study were 13 times as likely to be hurt while working as were other employees.

Not only are bike messengers more likely to be hurt but they are more likely to be seriously injured. While some office jobs and driving positions can lead to minor injuries that heal quickly, bicycle accident injuries are serious in a large number of cases. There is nothing surrounding a cyclist to protect that rider from the impact of a collision or from striking a road’s surface and therefore cuts, abrasions, fractured or broken bones, closed head injuries, open head injuries, and damage to internal organs are all likely consequences when a bicycle collision happens.

When a bike messenger is hurt in Chicago, it is important for that rider to realize that he or she may have the right to seek legal relief for the damages sustained, including any medical expenses incurred, pain and suffering that results, and time missed from work due to injuries. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney may help victims realize whether they have a valid right to relief and, if so, what steps must be taken so that relief is possible.

Prior Blog Entry:

4,884 Pedestrians were Killed in Traffic Accidents in 2014, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published June 7, 2016.


Bicycle Messenger License, Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, City of Chicago.

Occupational Injuries Among Boston Bicycle Messengers, by Jack Dennerlein and John Meeker, Ergonomics and Safety Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, published February 6, 2002.

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