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Uber is destroying the bike messenger

Samurai competes on service, not price. Unlike Uber, the worker-owned operation cannot cut its prices below cost.

David Santos had never worked as a bike messenger before he signed up in September with UberEats, the lunchtime meal-delivery service Uber launched in Manhattan last spring. Santos, 36, started out making deliveries on his days off, but when he lost his job as a porter at a homeless shelter in Brooklyn in October, he began riding full time for Uber and has worked almost every day since.

On a recent freezing morning, Santos and about 15 other bike couriers waited outside a van in the West 40s for the lunches they would deliver across midtown over the next four hours. They would be paid $15 an hour plus $1 per delivery, and would be done by 2 p.m. Santos would then switch to UberRush, a courier-service app for businesses and consumers, and continue making deliveries until 8 p.m., earning an 80% commission on each one.

He pulls in around $600 a week, more than he made at the shelter. He also loves being on his single-speed LaFleur bike, and thinks nothing of riding the 15 miles to Manhattan from his home in Yonkers to make deliveries on weekends.

But Santos is risking everything he has with each ride. Uber bike couriers do not receive safety training. Few of them on that cold morning were wearing helmets. And most important, Uber bikers are pretty much on their own if they go flying over their handlebars or get hit by a bus. The company does not provide workers' compensation for a job that is considered among the most dangerous in New York.


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