This International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing female riders that hustle every day to get our customers their favourite eats. Cycling and courier work continue to be a space that is heavily male dominated, so to level the playing field, here are some perspectives on living the rider life from Catherine and Tess, two riders based in Montreal and Toronto.
Meet Tess, who has been riding with foodora for two and a half years.
How did you get into the rider world and what drew you to it?
Catherine: I quickly realized when I moved to Montreal that biking was the easiest way to get around the city, regardless of the season. Biking then became a big part of my identity as it gave me independence, kept me in good health, and allowed me to gain mechanical skills. When riding downtown, I would often spot badass-looking bike messengers and was so intrigued by them. I guessed they must be as passionate about biking as I was, and I wanted to meet them! Then, last October, I attended my first alleycat race (La Course des Morts 2017) and was finally introduced to the ‘messfam’. Being hired at foodora also allowed me to meet more awesome riders.
Tess: I think the biggest draw for me was getting to explore the city and be outside all day, while getting paid to do it. I’d been interested in being a courier since I moved downtown a few years ago, but had weirdly been advised against it by a few people. As it turns out, applying for foodora, was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. It’s been over two years and I’m still loving it.
Why do you think that fewer women apply to be riders than men? Why do you think other women have reservations about this kind of job?
Catherine: Parity/equality is a complex issue, but it’s absolutely necessary to address it. In my opinion, less women (and other non-cis-gendered males) apply to be riders because they know it is a male-dominated job. It’s as though gender has something to do with the requirements for the job, when in reality it doesn’t. Some women have reservations about being a rider because they think that the community is not theirs.
In my experience, I’ve experienced comments about how heavy my bag must be and how hard it must be for me, while my male colleagues are never confronted with ‘pity remarks’!
The assumption that women are less suited to be couriers is wrong, and I think that we are seen as less enduring when it comes to physical jobs, or sports in general. In reality, regardless of gender, anyone who loves bikes, is courageous and in good shape is totally suited to be a courier!
Tess: The ratio of men to women/trans/femme-identifying people within courier jobs is pretty unbalanced. I think initially, that this alone can be intimidating when taking the job into consideration. As with any occupation, you want to feel like you’re a part of the community and that your voice is heard, but when you’re a female working within a predominantly male job, I think there’s the fear that your voice could be drowned out.
Meet Catherine, who has been riding for foodora since October 2017.
What do you think can be done to overcome these barriers? What changes would you like to see in the rider community?
Catherine: First things first, a change of mentality within the rider community is needed. In an ideal world, the job would be more attractive if there were more women (and other non-cis-gender males) working as riders. In the meantime, we need to address people and highlight the assumptions that are made about women in general, as well as in this field.
Tess: There is a strong community of riders who are working to make messenger jobs and the general biking community more welcoming for w/t/f riders. I think advertising that these groups/events are thriving would help to advocate that there’s a community here that anyone can feel welcome in. Friends Without Drama (FWOD) – a weekly group ride community, Bike Pirates – a DIY bike shop, and most alleycat races have w/t/f days or sections for the riders who identify as such. All of this really helps to say, “Hey, we see you, you’re welcome here!”
I’d really like to see this pattern of inclusivity keep growing. By encouraging these welcoming spaces we’re creating a stronger, more diverse community. There’s always more that can be done, though. I think showing up to events and supporting shops that provide inclusive spaces plays a huge part to help keep this positive change happening.
What’s one must-tell story that you got from your time riding with foodora?
Catherine: My best foodora story happened on a very cold evening shift in January. I was struggling to unlock my u-lock as it had literally frozen. I quickly pushed the first door I could see so I could warm up inside. It was a pretty empty bar in the Plateau, and the bar staff immediately offered to help me by giving me some hot water to un-freeze my u-lock. It didn’t work, and I unfortunately did not have my chain lube with me. But then, a lady at the bar asked me if I wanted some lube, which I replied ‘yes’ to, without realizing that she was referring to the ‘other kind’ of lube! She even offered to apply the lube to my u-lock and key herself, which I agreed to. I was quite amused by the situation. It turned out that it worked, and my u-lock was finally unlocked!
Tess: There was this one time a dog got off its leash in the Fort York condo area. Soon enough there were about 10 people trying to catch this tiny dog, who was heading straight for Spadina (at rush hour). It was intense. Luckily we were able to call the dog for the owner to catch it. I teared up a little, honestly. I can feel somewhat indifferent in that area sometimes. People are always in a rush to get to where they’re going, or to get home. We don’t really notice one another. It was uplifting to see a bunch of people get together so quickly to help. And, of course the main thing – the dog was unharmed!