My wife and I have not owned a car for over 30 years, and I have been biking to work, and biking everywhere else, for nearly 25 years. We live on the north side of Chicago and walk, bike, or ride the L everywhere.
It used to be I would see bicycle messengers crisscrossing the Loop every day. But over the last 10 years or so they have disappeared. A bike shop mechanic confirmed my hunch, that most bike messengers in Chicago used to make their living delivering legal documents for businesses, but with the rise of digital technology law firms and banks and other institutions have switched to PDF documents with digital signatures instead. In particular, as I understand it, the federal and state governments have changed laws to encourage this trend. Digital documents are much more efficient to produce, move, and store, and with modern digital signatures and encryption, are quite secure.
I would be interested in comments from past and present bike messengers on this topic. I am looking to write a blog article for my employer; stories about how the profession has changed would be most welcome. And anyone who could comment on the legal environment, laws that changed to encourage digital legal documents, and when the change started, would be appreciated as well.
I'm not a messenger but I work in Logistics and we still have some 'courier/messenger' work. Digital has had a major impact in this area - not just in the legal area but also in design and marketing which were big consumers of courier services and were impacted by the development of collaborative digital design and image technologies - but there are still items that require a physical presence such as sample products. If you want more information on the digital image technologies I can help.
Not so much 'messengers' as 'couriers' these days and they deliver much more than documents now with more delivers outside the Loop. Check out the Cut Cats that are a collective here in Chicago that is thriving!
Food delivery by bike is a HUGE thing now.
My son delivers for Postmates on a bike I gave him...