A veteran racer, community organiser and founder of the Professional Messenger Alliance, (PMA) along with running his own courier company, Kevin ‘Squid’ Bolger is somewhat of an elder statesman of New York’s messenger scene.
Text: Nick Chapman
Photos: Andy Donohoe
Squid doesn’t seem to really believe himself when I ask how long he’s been riding the streets: “I started working as a NYC bicycle messenger in 1992 – its been a quarter of a century!? Haha.”
Initially looking for a fun job, Kevin embarked on a life at the real forefront of the urban bike scene, getting paid riding the streets, racing for 15 years - he travelled the world taking part in the slightly more official versions of alleycat races like the Cycle Messenger World Championships (he rode the third ever in Toronto in 1993 and next year he’s riding the 25th) and Monster Track – and then organising city bike and velodrome races.
In the midst of all this, Kevin still had to make his living riding the streets. “It’s a tough job, especially in winter.” 15 years into his messenger career, he asked himself, “why am I working so hard for other people?” He set up his own courier company, CycleHawk, in 2006.
Being a company owner, is there more pressure to promote a responsible image of messengers and urban cycling? “I feel no pressure but more of an urge to promote safety and good will. I want the bike messenger community to flourish.”
Running the PMA with his friend Brandon, he describes it as an ‘informal get together’ for messengers. “I like to promote a positive and helpful image. Whether that happens or not is up to the individual. I tell the kids: its up to YOU.”
Kevin acknowledges that urban cycling has enjoyed a huge boost over the last decade and he definitely see messengers as being the inspiration: the boom in riding track bikes on the street, the popularity of messenger bags worn by city commuters.
He is relaxed about it though: “I am all for people doing their thing. We all get inspiration from each other and more people on bikes can only be good for the planet. My ethos is that anyone can be a CycleHawk, and we are all here to grow and help each other if possible. Community over commerce.”
But he does concede, “Bike messengers might be the rock stars of urban bike.”