Published on November 14th, 2013 | by Boris
TO THE ENEMY – MY RECENT WHEELS MAGAZINE COLUMN
I have been invisible for 35 years.
That is how long I have been riding a motorcycle, and that is how long car drivers have not seen me.
For the first 10 years I was appalled and terrified in equal measure. How can you not see me? I am large. My motorcycle is shiny and noisy, and yet you still merge into me, turn across my path and do your level best to wedge me into your grill like a busted parrot.
The next 10 years I cloaked myself in righteous rage and decided I would single-handedly re-educate drivers the same way you teach a dog not to crap on the lounge. I lost count of the number of bonnets I stood on, screaming: “Can you see me now!?” I stopped counting the side mirrors I powdered with my mailed fist and the three-quarter panels I dinged with my steel-capped boots after the first 100. And it was only after they put surveillance cameras up on every intersection that I stopped pulling screaming drivers through their smashed side-windows and beating them like rented mules.
The last 15 years have mellowed me greatly. I have now adopted a resigned and somewhat contemptuous acceptance of the fact that car drivers will never see me, and it’s not because your eyes don’t work.
It’s because, quite frankly, most of you aren’t really very good at this driving caper.
Motorcyclists are far more skilled road-users. Not only has the government legislated mandatory training upon us, but we are hugely incentivised not to screw up on the roads.
Unlike car drivers, whose “training” usually consists of a few vacuous hours learning and mimicking your dad’s bad driving habits.
And your resultant lack of any real driving skill is constantly being pandered to by the manufacturers, who have loaded your cars with more airbags than the Labour Caucus, and who go to ever grander lengths to seal you away from the environment around you, thus rendering you blinder and deafer, while giving you ever greater amounts of dials, knobs, lights, buttons and gauges to distract you from the business of driving.
When you’re riding a bike, all you can do is ride the bike. You cannot fiddle with the stereo, discipline your brats, SMS your homies, do your make-up, or eat your breakfast cereal. Motorcycling is a very Darwinian paradigm. If we’re crap at it, we are rightfully and rapidly culled from the herd. If you’re crap at driving you’re just making panel-beaters rich.
Motorcycling demands you bring your A-game all the time. Don’t bring it and you’ll pay for it in meat. Your meat.
You overcook a corner in a car and nudge the Armco, and you’ll lose your no-claim bonus. I nudge the Armco, and I’ve driven my thigh-bone through my liver and will be learning to walk again.
Yes, I know that many of you literally seethe with righteous indignation when I lane-split to the front of the traffic-light cue. But please understand that I am doing it for your benefit. If I become like another car, and take my place in traffic, it is likely you may rear-end me while you’re texting your wife some lie about why you’re home late.
Slamming into the car in front of you normally results in whooshing air-bags, minor panel damage and an exchange of details. No biggie, right? Shunting me on my bike because you’re not paying attention, delivers a whole world of hurt to me. And to you if I am still able to get up after you’ve powdered my pelvis. And wait until the police get there and charge you with Driving Like An Imbecile And Hurting Someone. You’ll love that bit.
Consider this the next time I shoot past you in peak hour, gracefully avoiding the side mirrors you’re not even using. And also consider that fact that I did not buy a bike to join you in the lemming-like waste of your life by lining up with you in those mindless traffic cues. Remember that you are, after all, not in traffic. You are traffic.
So please don’t mind me. And do try to dampen the hatred you feel for my manifest contempt at your personal transport choice.
I’m entirely reconciled to your blind inattention and I will continue to deploy my vast array of skills trying to get the hell out of your way, every time.
But maybe consider your fellow drivers – who are just as sightless, untrained and basking in risk homeostasis as you are.