MayDay! Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund fundraiser
Story by Samantha Edwards, poster illustration by Dmitry Bondarenko
It was nearing the end of the workday on a chilly February evening when bike messenger Emily Glos was hit by a car. She was picking up her final delivery, going westbound on College in Little Italy, when she was rear ended, causing her to break both her wrist and elbow. It would be two months until she could get back on her bike.
During her first week of recovery, she received $300 from the Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund (BMEF), a non-profit organization that provides compensation to bike messengers who are hurt on the job. For almost two decades, the BMEF has been helping injured messengers worldwide, doling out cheques to cover medical and food expenses.
After her accident, Glos (along with a group of devoted volunteers) helped organize the first ever BMEF fundraiser in Toronto, which is now going strong in its third year.
Over the weekend of May 4 to May 6, the city’s messenger community will come together once again to participate in a handful of events such as group rides, bike games, a dance party and BBQ on Friday at 6pm, plus – piñata bashing.
On Saturday, speedy cyclists and messenger wannabes can show off their riding skills in a race-cum-scavenger hunt, which requires participants to slice and weave through traffic. Although all in good fun, the race can get competitive, perhaps fuelled by the impressive prizes promised. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at Red Arrow at 19 Kensington Ave., and the race starts at 6 p.m. Some prize highlights are; a cyclocross frame from Liberty Street Cyclery, a wheel set from Red Arrow bikes, bags from Chrome and Under the Weather, and a meal for two at La Palette.
Later on in the evening, celebrate your victories–or drink away your losses–at the after party at Bike Pirates, located at 1292 Bloor St. West. Registration and access to the party is $20, with all funds supporting the BMEF.
On Sunday, there will be a group ride to the Leslie Spit followed by a game of bike polo at Dufferin Grove Park. The ride will begin at noon at the community centre in Dufferin Grove Park.
The fundraiser coincides with May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, which celebrates the labour movement. Under Ontario labour law, bike messengers should be treated as employees and receive all the benefits associated with that status. Yet employers claim messengers are independent contractors, and therefore not covered by the Ontario Employment Standards legislation. As a result, they do not receive vacation pay, overtime, sick days or employment insurance, not because of the provincial labour laws themselves but rather that those laws are not being enforced.
If a messenger is injured on the job–which is not unusual in such a fast-paced, dangerous trade–they will not receive any compensation from their company. This is why the BMEF is so important: although the messenger community is very tight-knit and familial, there is little financial security from the job if you’re hurt while working.
To date, the Toronto BMEF fundraiser has raised $3,500, with cyclists coming from all over the country and the United States to participate. This year is expected to be the biggest bash yet, so make sure to pump your tires, ready your polo gear and get cycling for a good cause.
Check out the event on Facebook.
Related on the dandyBLOG: Wayne Scott fought to get couriers the right to write off food expenses as fuel in their tax returns.
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