[messengers] Two wheels and a passion It can be a wild ride, but courier loves job

Date: 13 Dec 2010 13:10:47 +0100
From: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>


Two wheels and a passion 

It can be a wild ride, but courier loves job 

   

   

By PATRICIA BROOKS ARENBURG

   

 Halifax 
Chronicle Herald , December 13, 2010

   

Colin Perras's day job is to weave in and out of Halifax traffic in his
occupation as a bicycle courier.  

   

   

   

   

   

COLIN PERRAS weaves easily in and out of traffic in downtown
 Halifax — so
easily, in fact, that you would never know just how dangerous it really is. 

   

He has been attacked, had his bicycle stolen and narrowly
avoided slamming into kicked-open car doors too many times to count. 

   

But it is his passion for riding, whether there is snow on
the ground or storm clouds in the air, that carries him through each day as a
bike courier. 

   

"It’s a lot of fun," said the 29-year-old.
"You stay in amazing shape, you meet a lot of people, the lifestyle’s
great — it’s almost surreal." 

   

Perras first caught the bug when he spotted a bike courier
circling behind his apartment, trying to find an address. 

   

"I asked this guy ‘How do I get into this? How do I do
what you’re doing? It looks like an awesome job.’ And he gave me the number to
his dispatcher. I called and within a few months, I got the job." 

   

He pedalled the summer away, but he bailed just before
winter that year. Perras went to work as a cook at a local hotel and just as
his full-time shifts turned into piecemeal work, he got a call from the
dispatcher to hit the road once again in February 2009. 

   

Perras simply isn’t your average 9-to-5 kind of guy. If he
was forced to work in a cubicle environment, "I’d cry," he admits. 

   

   

His office is anywhere he wants it to be, as long as he has
his bike and his mobile phone. 

   

He texts his dispatcher first thing in the morning as he
gets ready for work, just to make sure the company knows he is in, and heads to
a coffee shop for a serious breakfast. 

   

"In a typical day, I would have to eat a large
breakfast, probably about double what the average cubicle person would need to
eat, and for lunchtime, I would have a very large lunch as well," said
Perras, who sometimes eats a whole four-litre pot of stew for supper to refuel
his body. 

   

Although unsure how many calories he eats each day, the
175-pound man said he has heard reports that the typical bike courier will eat
up to 6,000 calories a day to do the job. 

   

He is a "bit of a bike fiend," trading bikes to
keep things fresh on the road. His favourite bike, the one that was stolen,
cost $2,000 and had a Brooks saddle, riser bars and a low-rider look to it. 

   

"It was a lot of fun," Perras said. "I could
jump stairs with it, just kind of do anything you would on a mountain bike, but
apply it to the city, ride it all day and get paid for it." 

   

In spite of his free-wheeling ways, he still has
responsibilities. Perras has regular bank deposits and delivery of legal
documents that have to be done by set times each day, along with an almost
never-ending series of random pickups and deliveries throughout mostly the
downtown core. 

   

Even when the streets are bumper to bumper, he pedals past
to stay on deadline. 

   

He averages around 60 kilometres a day, but "my record
is 80 kilometres in a day," said Perras. And in the thousands of
kilometres he has travelled, there have been a few tumbles, like the time the
chain on his fixed-gear bike broke, taking the brakes with it. 

   

He went "rolling into traffic at high speeds (and) ended
up in a 10-foot cartwheel into the air. That wasn’t very fun," he said. 

   

His scariest moment stemmed from a case of road rage, where
he angered another driver so much that the man tried to ram him into parked
cars. 

   

Thankfully, a nearby police officer saw the whole thing and
arrested the driver. The case went to court and the driver was fined $600 and
lost his licence for a week, Perras said. 

   

Most of the problems he has stem from drivers who don’t know
how to share the road with bicyclists, he said. 

   

Const. Brian Palmeter, spokesman for Halifax Regional
Police, said he is not aware of any issues with bike couriers operating in the
city. 

   

"I can say, from my observation, they seem to be
following the law. They’re wearing helmets. . . . I haven’t seen any flagrantly
violating the laws or anything." 

   

But Palmeter said that all cyclists have to obey traffic
laws. 

   

"If it’s a red light, it’s a red light." 

   

There are a handful of bike messengers throughout the city —
one recently retired to run a bike shop. They earn about $20,000 to $30,000 a
year, Perras said, but it is the love of the lifestyle and the ride that keeps
them on the street. 

   

"I would say it’s definitely worth it for the
experience."

   

  
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