I’ll admit I used to be an avid rider, doing various outrides as often as possible but as I’ve grown older, something’s changed in me. Maybe it’s fear; maybe I’ve just wised-up. I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll say this… I’m extremely scared of riding a motorbike on Johannesburg’s roads.
The reasoning is simple… I used to commute to work every day on a bike. It was pure bliss. No traffic, no distractions, just me and my thoughts. This, of course, changed when I was knocked off my bike by a maniac in a bakkie, who turned me into a bouncing ball as I ricocheted off the sides of different cars before coming to a stop in front of the bakkie.
Battered and bruised, off I went to hospital. The mental injuries were far worse than the physical pain. I was, for the first time in my life, confronted with my own mortality.
Since that day I’ve been riding a lot slower and less frequently. In fact, I prefer spending my time at a track day in a controlled environment or doing off-road riding, where I’m not confronted by an idiot who’s texting while driving, or some inebriated driver.
The truth is, as a motorcyclist, you develop skills. You see things because you’re constantly watching people and your reaction time gets quicker. You can see Joe Soap changing lanes before he even knows he wants to! Maybe it’s the weaving or lack of attention but as a biker, making your daily commute, these are just some of the dangers you face every day.
So, while the trip used to take all of 15 minutes to get to work, compared to the usual 50 minutes now (travelling by car), I figured the risks just aren’t worth the time lost. I’d much rather idle along in traffic and improve my chances of seeing my loved ones again.
Ultimately, the problem is, South African road users are arrogant and selfish and next time you’re in a vehicle look at how many people push and shove into lanes and cut people off. Some drivers speed, yes, but others crawl along in the fast lane. It’s all about I, me, myself, when a person heads out onto the roads.
Taxis stop wherever and whenever they want to! Joe Soap refuses to wait in the long queue and feels his time is more valuable, so down the yellow lane he goes, while a young lady chats away on her cell phone because she can’t wait until she gets home to tell her friends about the tough day she’s had. These are just some of the challenges and dangers that don’t only face bikers, but fellow motorists and road users, as well.
Admittedly, not all bikers are saints, either. Most, however, just want to get to and from work like the rest of us - just a little faster, and why not? They are on two wheels and cause zero traffic congestion. So when bikers cut lanes and drive past you, stop thinking about yourself for a second and give them some room. There’s absolutely no reason to block them, unless you’re angry and jealous that they’re passing you! If that’s the case, get a motorcycle and you can do the same.
Nothing infuriates me more than an inconsiderate motorist who refuses to allow a motorcycle past. Not only does it prevent the biker from continuing his journey, he now forms part of the traffic adding to the congestion and what benefit does it have for holding him back, Mr Car Driver?
In the same breath, those two-wheel maniacs who weave through traffic and break the speed limit are hazardous on the road. You can expect fellow motorists to react badly when you’re flying down the middle lane and suddenly there’s a car in your path, changing lanes. The most common saying I’ve heard is, “They came out of nowhere and I didn’t see them.” I experienced it. It doesn’t matter how often you check your mirrors before changing lanes, motorbikes accelerate like bullets.
So while I’m urging car drivers to think bike, bikers must also think car, and know that they can appear out of nowhere. As for kicking mirrors and punching windows as you drive past a car that’s been cutting you off, a few words of caution: Violence begets violence and never solved anything.
We’d like you to share your thoughts with us as to whether you’ve had any run-ins with other motorists.