Downtown resident Melissa Dye was laid off from her job at the state Capitol last year—yet another victim of the economic downturn. Not one to sit around all day, she found work with a courier service and is now Sacramento’s only female bike messenger. A lifelong cyclist, Dye took a few minutes to talk about making a living on two wheels.
How did you get the job as a bike messenger?
I had ridden around on the weekend with some people that I had met in the Capitol and networking through there. There’s this individual, S.K. Lindsey, and she lives down the street, and we had ridden together quite a bit. One of the clients at her office was Professional Couriers Inc., and they asked if she knew of anyone that was good at riding, that would be able keep up with bike “messengering,” and she suggested me. And I was tried out for two weeks with Trogg, the main rider in the company. And I managed to keep up. I was really fast in traffic. I was good with clients and caught on quite easily, and they offered me the position.
Tell me more about your tryout.
It was training for two weeks. I shadowed the main rider and I went with him and met all the clients. He showed me different routes. We went on distance rides to West Sac, East Sac, just to feel how long I could go for riding at a higher rate and how I handled traffic and dealing with riding alongside cars and in between them and whatnot. We clicked rather well. By the second week, I was taking longer rides on my own and picking up shifts as soon as they were offered to me, because I was just interested in getting to work.
You’ve been a cyclist for a while, right?
Yes. Well, I’ve been biking since I was a little kid. I just grew up with bicycles and using that as transportation to get around town. [Radio noise crackles in the background.] Can we stop for a minute? [She responds to the radio.]
Are you on-call right now?
Well, because I’m downtown, I’m on-call all the time. [It’s] just as an easier option, because the other rider that is on full-time does distance rides during the day, and when he’s gone, I’m usually around.
How many miles do you ride a week?
Per week, during the busy time it can get up to, like, 100 miles. During the slow times, 20 to 30, up to 40. Not as many as I would like.
That’s some good exercise.
I know! The amount of weight I’ve lost is amazing. It’s like getting paid to go to the gym, except it’s way more interesting and you get to talk to people.
What are some of the other benefits of being a bike messenger?
I love the freedom of this job. I love being on a bike. I love just being able to have the best parking everywhere, and being paid to do something I love so much. Every day is an adventure. I get to go out in the sunshine, be in the streets, not trapped in a car, not trapped in an office. I have the freedom to just enjoy the outdoors when most people rarely see the sunshine during the work week.
I meet a lot of clients because of all the different buildings I have to go into. I’ve met a lot of security guards at the entrances to each of the bigger buildings. And it’s nice to have that sort of sense of community around here, because now when I ride around, more people wave to me. It’s comforting to have that sense that someone else is looking out for you, and you know someone on your block.
Do you ever get any flack from the other bike messengers?
It’s sort of like a brotherhood with the other riders. They’re cordial to me. They’ll wave and say hi because they see me going out of the buildings and they understand that I’m a messenger. I don’t know if they know how to deal with having a female in the brotherhood, but I’m not trying to get in their way or steal their job. It’s just something I love, and I appreciate the opportunity, and if they don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine.
A lot of people second-guess me in the elevators when I have to go into the buildings. They double-check, “Are you a messenger, or are you just dressed like that for fun?”
Will you go to back to full-time work?
It’s hard because each time I get a notification for an interview in an office, part of me wants to say no, because I love what I’m doing so much. And I know that if I get this position, the fun’s over. You’ve got to settle back down and go back indoors and not have the adventurous days that I have each day that I work.