A day in the life of a bicycle courier (Diary – Day 11 Part 2)

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Yes, there really is a part 2 to Day 11, which was the 28th of January! You might have noticed, that I like to write, but even I myself am a bit surprised about the amount I wrote on that particular day.

In this post you’ll first find some information about what it can be like to work as a courier and then on page 2 my diary entry. Both together will give you a good overall impression of my work.

Working as a bicycle courier

As you might have read in some of my other posts, I work part-time as a bicycle courier. That is I deliver food. If you wonder how this works here is a quick description how it works:

First of all most riders/couriers in Germany who work for this company are employed. We do not work as independant contractors and therefore things run a bit differently than in other countries where the couriers are “self-employed”.

The customer logs in and decides which food he or she wants to order.

A criterium in Germany is that the restaurant is within a 4km radius from the customer. These distances are determined by an algorithm. Which usually means that when you ride from A to B that the distance is not the same as the algorithm calculated it, it is longer.

Once the order has been made and paid for

Again the AI decides which one of us couriers is closest to the restaurant or will be closest after delivering our current order.
When there are few people working, like during lunch or afternoon shifts, this usually means that we ride ridicously long distances to get to the restaurants. Which is a pain in my hometown Dresden.

It basically means crossing bridges most of the time to pendel from one city district to another. And bridges are not necessarily fun – especially when it’s windy, snowing or raining. (But I make a point of it to view and appreciate our gorgeous river skyline every time I go over one.) That is if I can. When there are lots of uncaring pedestrians using the bicycle pathway, which unfortunately does not run on the streets, I might not be able to do so.

In short, the distances are unnecessarily long and tend to tire you out much quicker.

Our app informs us that we have a new order

Which the we ‘riders’ have to accept. That is, we can click on decline, but it only means the same order will pop up again and again until we accept it. So there really is no way to decline other than talking to our dispatchers. Which is okay as I assume some people would just decline and not work at all otherwise. I’m sure there usually is a reason for why things are as they are. Yet it can be unpleasant to have to accept new orders when your shift is supposed to finish within the next 5 minutes. Because no order ever is finished within 5minutes.*

After checking the order details we ride to the restaurant
  • On busy days, meaning days where there are many orders or too few bicycle couriers available:
    We might get orders that are already slightly behind the pick-up time. Nothing we can do, really. Racing fast in town, usually ends up in longer waiting times at the next traffic lights and a greater waste of energy.
  • On less busy days, we have plenty ot time to wait at the restaurant.
  • When the restaurant is super busy with their own and our companys orders, we get to wait also. Which can be great, or not, if it drags on for too long and your body starts shut down (especially in winter).
Once you have the order you confirm the pick-up

Only then you get the customers adress. A click on the adress will connect us with a street map, so that we know where to go to, if we don’t know the adress. This is very handy, as typing the adress ourselves into a map would take much longer.

The last step is usually pretty straightforward
  • We deliver the food. When we unpack the order there is always a moment where we hold our breath, hoping that the soup(s) or dish that came in a unsuitable container made it without leaking.
  • We wish the customer a nice day and love those who reward us with tipp money. Because most of us work for minimum wages, so that bonus is very much appreciated. I once read Aussie couriers saying that they don’t like tipp money. But I really don’t get why, there is no preference on my side, nor would I make tipp money the deciding factor over how fast ride my bicycle. (My body and mental energy dictate that, besides all the traffic lights along my way.)
  • So if you happen to be someone who doesn’t like the tipp system, you are welcome to share why you think so in the comments section!


**It is very “flexible work”. A good thing is that every minute overtime will be paid for. The advantage of that is that you often get to work and earn more. On about half of my shifts I work a few minutes longer, which easily accumulate to several hours a month.
On the downside it’s hard to plan to do stuff after work. As you might not finish as planned at the end of your shift. Another thing is that Murpys Law will, with a 99% accuracy, send you to a customer that lives far away from your home, meaning the way home (which is unpaid), will take twice as long. That can be a downer! Especially when I have some other appointment afterwards. Or after a 7-9 hours work day, when I am tired and hungry and just want to get home asap.


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