Science & Tech

Boston bike messengers experience very high injury rate

1 min read

Job more dangerous than meat-packing, football

Bike couriers have become as a much a part of the urban landscape as sky-scrapers and traffic-clogged streets. Boston messengers collectively make between 3,000 and 4,000 deliveries on a given day. It may seem obvious that messengers work in dangerous conditions, quickly maneuvering around cars and pedestrians during peak congestion times. But little is known about the occupational hazards or rate and severity of injuries among this group because many bike messengers are independent contractors rather than employees of a courier service. As a result, injuries sustained on the job go unreported and days lost to injury are days without pay. To quantify the injuries, 113 bike couriers in Boston completed a two-page, self-administered injury survey in July 2001, that assessed total injuries and frequency, injury severity as well as individual characteristics, job characteristics and perceived risk. Only 32 percent of the participants reported having medical insurance. “The injury rate among bike couriers appears to be typical, if not higher, than those of professional football players who only work for part of the year,” said study author Jack Tigh Dennerlein. The study appeared in the December 2002 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.