I awoke Sunday morning to the sad news that New York Bike Messenger Legend “Fast Eddie” Williams had passed away.
Apparently, when Eddie didn’t show for work on Friday morning a coworker went to his apartment where he found Eddie had died during the night.
Life is strange, death is even stranger. We all know it is inevitable, and yet when it happens we are so ill equipped to deal with it.
We are shocked, stunned, we can’t believe it. Or is it just that we don’t want to believe it?
Eddie had been a bike messenger in New York City since 1983, long before riding a fixed wheel, no brakes, track bike on city streets became a hipster fashion. In fact it was the bike messenger who started the craze.
Bike messengers provide an essential service in the city, delivering important documents when overnight delivery is just not fast enough. Speed is of the essence, and a fixed wheel track bike is the perfect tool for the job.
A skilled rider has tremendous control over the bike, able to speed up or slow down easily and thread between cars when traffic is at a standstill. A courier on a bike can get from A to B quicker than any motorized vehicle.
I met Eddie just once when I traveled to New York in November 2014. We met in a bar/restaurant in Brooklyn, where Eddie lived. (Picture above.) He was a big man, at least six-four, maybe more. Soft spoken, humble almost. He showed me his bike, a track bike I had built in 1983, and had been raced on the Trexlertown Velodrome. Eddie had bought the bike from the original owner in 1998.
Then just two months later around Christmas 2014 Eddie’s bike was stolen. Eddie was devastated. He needed this bike to earn a living. I listed the bike as stolen on my Bike Registry, and several months later the frame showed up in a Queens bike store. Someone contacted me, I contacted Eddie, and he got his bike back.
That was the last time I spoke to Eddie just hours after he had retrieved the frame. The parts were gone, but Eddie had other parts and had already re-built it. I asked if he had found the thief. He replied, “Oh, it was just some young kids.”
This response was typical of the man. He wasn’t vindictive or looking to punish someone, he was just full of joy to have his bike back.
I will always be grateful that I got to meet Eddie, and also with the help of many others was able to get his bike back to him when it was stolen.
I hope that bike never gets restored, but that it remains as is, with its thousands of paint chips. A working bike, displayed in a bike store or somewhere, as a memorial to a Legend.
Rest in Peace Fast Eddie, I will always remember you, as will many more.