Our Modern City

Samurai Biker Messengers Battle the Web in Manhattan

bike messenger Samurai Biker Messengers Battle the Web in Manhattan

From Flickr user Adam Freidin

Technology has become the enemy and the ally of the bike riding couriers in the Big Apple. Small files and photos that they once would have delivered are now routinely scanned and emailed. But big film and television projects that might have required a truck can now be handled in terabyte hard drives.

Wired has a great profile of the Samurai Messanger Service, which operates without a central dispatcher, rotating its riders back and forth to that position, and relying on the web to channel incoming orders and plot out effective routes. Without the overhead of an office, each messanger can earn between $130 and $200 a day.

A few riders have managed to secure backers for their fast paced lifestyle. Samurai messenger Austin Horse regularly tweets during his ride to maintain a social media profile that keeps sponsors like Red Bull happy.

New bugaboos include 3D printers, which make it possible to email physical prototypes as digital files. It’s the first hint of the complete teleportation. “Literally the only thing that will put an end to bike messengers is the ability to move physical things cheaply and quickly through the data stream,” says Samurai rider Josh Weitzner. “Which doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon. If anyone’s doing serious research into this, please give us a call, I’d like to invest now.”

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