Alleycat Insights: Q & A with Buffalo Bill Chidley
Alleycat Insights is a series of interviews about the evolution of alleycat culture that took place over the course of putting together our feature story, Alleycat Explosion. In this installment we catch up with “Buffalo Bill” Chidley over in London. Chidley, who began working as a messenger in 1987, was around when alleycats were just starting to really take off in the mid-90′s and has been recording the details of alleycats and London courier life in Moving Target Zine—”By, for, and about London bicycle messengers”—all along the way.
Urban Velo: Let’s talk alleycats. When did you start participating in alleycats?
Buffalo Bill: 1994, in Toronto. I wrote a piece [about it in] the London courier ‘zine Moving Target. I organized the first London alleycat later that month; I reckon that London was one of the first cities outside of Toronto to organise Alleycats—after Berlin, but definitely before NYC.
What were the major alleycats happening when you came on the scene?
BB: The Toronto Alleycat Scramble, and that was it.
When did you see things grow beyond the limits of the courier community, and what contributed to that?
BB: Sometime around 2007. There was a feminist-themed Alleycat organised that side-stepped the whole “real” messenger thing, because you had to be a girl, not a messenger to do the race, and was more about celebrating femininity, than just burning rubber. The organizer, Chandra, put in checkpoints at which the racers had to pin the cock on the porn-star, or wax the checkpoint marshalls’ back, legs or bikini line. It was mad, and suddenly not just about racing, or about anything other than celebrating bikes and women and a lot of the bad vibes generated by ‘real’ messengers moaning about fakengers were dissipated at the after party.
But on the other hand, the messenger sub-culture had always included non-messengers in it, especially at messenger events.
Were there any races you were involved in that had serious injuries or police involvement?
BB: Not really. The odd person got plastered to the road, and maybe one or two people actually broke stuff, but nothing major. The police never really bothered us either.
Can you pinpoint any moments when the format or feel of alleycats underwent significant change?
BB: I don’t know. Warriors or Metropoloco [in NYC] are generally acknowledged to be the greatest alleycats or something, but some Toronto guys would deny that those events were alleycats. I remember that people started talking about copyrighting the alleycat concept, which was pretty stupid.
We only ever started organizing alleycats as a means of starting a sense of community amongst messengers, not to be ‘bad-asses’ or to be ‘really rad’. I regret that its gotten its DVD boxed set—that seems to miss the whole point of ‘underground’, which is what they were.
About Krista Carlson
A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.