Motorbikes on the Dragon
Image by TeecNosPos via Flickr

Saul K, from the Outlet, has an issue with bikers. Time to bring out the sparring gloves.

Actually, no. We all have to share the roads, and a large portion of bikers wish to do it in the safest manner possible. If you think our roads are currently bad for cars, bear in mind they are ten times worse for bikers. Lanes are narrower, road surfaces are carved into horribly uneven grooves-of-death, or stairs between lanes making lane changing on a bike impossible, and construction debris and dust covers the roads, making stone-catching sore, and making braking unsafe.

So to paraphrase from Saul’s entry, I’d say this is a brief summary of the contention points:

- Bikers are a hypocritical nuisance.

- Lane splitting is evil.

- Bikers never stick to the left hand side of the road like bicycle drivers do.

- Bikers tend to sit in car driver’s blind spots.

- Bikers change lanes too often.

- Bike owners feel the need to speed consistently.

- “when you learn how to drive we’ll stop running you over”.

I feel compelled to react to each of those points individually, and get some biker opinion out there.

1. Bikers are a hypocritical nuisance:

Of course we are, we’re arrogant too, we’ve every right to stamp our authority on the roads and what’s more, we’re cool. :P

2. Lane splitting is evil:

The Happy Couple
Image by Shaun Dewberry via Flickr

Lane splitting is perfectly legal in South Africa, and let’s face it, you’d be a moron if you sat in the traffic, choking down exhaust fumes, when there’s a perfectly good gap between cars that one can use.

3. Bikers never stick to the left hand side of the road like bicycle drivers do:

Sticking to the left hand side would be silly unless you want to collect the tail-end of a truck, hurdle a random pedestrian or smooch a vehicle exiting from a blind entrance. (Or refurbish the face of one of those, ahem, bicycle drivers[sic]) We’re using engines, not legs, here. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re suggesting the building of dedicated biker lanes, well, hell yeah, absolutely!

4. Bikers tend to sit in car driver’s blind spots:

Unfortunately, yes, this is a symptom of poor mirror design and lane-splitting.  However, all drivers that did their driver’s license test were taught to check their blindspots frequently – do you think they do it? Well, yes, many do and I have absolute respect and always try to thank the driver who sees me and cancels his/her indicator to let me through, or shifts slightly to one side, but so often the driver feels there’s no time to check the mirror before they make a desperate lunge to sit behind traffic from a different point of view in the next lane.

5. Bikers change lanes too often:

See below discussion on speed. If you’re going faster than the traffic around you you’re going to need to change lanes.

6. Bike owners feel the need to speed consistently:

On the speed issue, yes, some bikers do ride at excessive speeds fairly often – most often Sunday mornings on empty roads long before cage-drivers wake up. But to be fair, biker’s speeding is often a symptom of vehicle driver’s speeding. If you ride to live it’s highly recommended you ride at least 20km/h faster than the traffic around you. Any slower and cars will start overtaking you – and not surprisingly being overtaken by a low-flying Ford is one of the scariest experiences on a bike. Yes, surprise! We can’t hear your eco-friendly green hybrid save-the-planet-but-pollute-it-with-lead batterymobile buzzing up behind us – we’ve got, yes, fresh air blasting past our ears (and maybe a nice loud pipe under the seat, too!). And what’s more, we can outbrake you by a country mile. At traffic lights we often live in fear of being rear ended by a ton of metal that just cannot brake fast enough. 160-170km/h is not excessive if the cars are traveling at 130-140km/h, it’s realistic.

7. “when you learn how to drive we’ll stop running you over”.

I doubt it. There will always be bad bikers and there will always, always be terrible drivers. I choose not to see car drivers as the enemy, as I too am a car driver, but I am exceptionally cautious around cars when biking. And by the same measure I’m exceptionally cautious around bikes when driving. We’ve only got so much tarmac to share and there are a lot of idiots out there. I’d like to get to where I’m going (even if it is a bar) in once piece, as I’m sure you would too.

C’mon, Saul, buy a bike!

Bikers, evil? What do you think?