Gabe ”CheatDeath” Filandro

When I suggest that being a bike messenger might be a desirable way of life, Gabe Filandro is adament: “A bunch of messengers out here created a scene, but it is definitely NOT a lifestyle. To guys out here hustling in rain, sleet or snow for their families, being a messenger is a job.”

Having been on the scene 5 years, Gabe still considers himself a rookie, but he knows how tough the job is. Working hard for low pay, difficulties in getting a break at a good company, even being fired from a food delivery job who wanted him to kill rats as part of the job - “I did what they wanted and posted a video of it online. I got fired on New Year’s Day.” Just the inherent risk of riding a bike in the busiest city in the world: “Most of my careers went sour because of accidents but I always managed to jump right back on the bike.”

One such accident happened in 2013 when Gabe was hit by a bus in the city: “I got 12 staples in the back of my head, rolled my right ankle and tore my right shoulder.” Rather than putting him off riding, he was inspired to buy a GoPro to document the crazy and reckless drivers that messengers have to contend with. Before he could start working again himself, he’d follow his friend through the city, leading him to meet legends of the NYC messenger scene - Skeletor, Spider, Fred and Panama - but also capture something of messenger life. This is where CheatDeathNYC was born.

Whilst making sure the job pays is priority number one, this is Gabe’s passion. “I make good money because no matter if it’s slow, raining, snowing, or days you just don’t want to ride your

bike, you will catch me riding and filming that shit because documentation is imporant! Life is important and it should be remembered.”

CheatDeathNYC exists as an Instagram account where Gabe shares films made from his GoPro footage showing all kinds of angles of life on a bike in New York. From classic courier shots of riding the wrong way through traffic with the horns of yellow taxis drowning out the commentary to guys pulling stunts on fixies like riding backwards across intersections. Images of the laid back side of messenger life - getting lunch, having a beer, to a messenger using his bike as a shield as a car driver swings a chain at him during an argument.

Documenting this helps people see inside messenger life and understand more about it, but Gabe is adamant that it is more than that. “Death can come unexpectedly. Self awareness is important, as is being aware of your surroundings. Cycling helps you appreciate both and it’s a beautiful thing.”

“I see myself as someone who drives people to ride bikes with this. I may have some foul language in my videos but I think its ok because its real life and I’m exposing people to it. Appreciation of a life in motion - its art.”

And how does this role balance with being a messenger? “I was just so happy to be riding my bike everyday and I haven’t stopped since. This job is real love and it’s what I really love to do.”