Are motorcyclists a road menace?

Tis Thing Called Life

Last Wednesday evening, while I was stuck in the traffic jam, I tuned in to Red FM (104.90)’s segment called “What’s the point?”. In the show, the topic of the day is “do you think that motorcyclists are a menace on the road?”

After gathering poll results via phone call and sms, the DJ mentioned that 99.2% of listeners who responded believed that motorcyclists are a menace on the road. There was a respondant who told the DJ that she did not think motorcyclists were the problems but instead, the lorry and bus drivers are. The DJ, obviously who has misgivings on motorcyclists mentioned that, “you see, the people who are driving buses and lorries out there are the same people who ride motorbikes. So they drive buses and lorries like how they ride their motorbikes.”

I am not very sure about how many listeners out there that he had offended. Many people who drive cars, especially with humble origins from smaller towns, also hold motorbike license. The way he address the topic clearly shows that he is lacking in depth, empathy and understanding.

First thing first, motorcyclists, like us have every right to use the road. Riding a motorbike requires careful balancing over 2 wheels and the entire body is exposed to danger and the elements. If we talk about motorcyclists, let’s talk about car drivers:

  • they weave in and out of traffic,
  • a lot of drivers cut queues with no consideration- they come from the back and go right in front of a long queue at the traffic light. They use a moving lane to do that, causing jam as the other cars at the back could not move because they block the way
  • and even though you allow them to cut in, there is no acknowledgement of thanks
  • or often, they cut in out of nowhere, missing your car by a few inches
  • they slow down during accidents to see or try to figure out the number plate in order to buy 4 digit number, causing massive jams- many jams in our highways are caused because of that.
  • some drivers purposely drive through a puddle of water, causing it to splash on pedestarians or motorcyclists (some of my friends used to tell me that the driver had seen them and yet purposely go over the puddle of water.
  • at highways, they speed well above the allowed speed limit. So if you are travelling in the fast lane at the maximum allowed speed, they drive closely at the back and keep flashing at you so that you will move aside.
  • they suddenly change lane without looking properly at their rear view mirror.
  • they keep honking and flashing their headlights at cars in front of them who they feel are slow to cross over an intersection- as if that few seconds of delay will make a huge difference.
  • sometimes they use the middle finger to show to other drivers
  • a few of my friends, who previously rode motorbikes, were knocked down by cars, through no fault of their own.
  • some drivers double park and in some areas, triple park, with no consideration, causing traffic jams and a nightmare to other drivers to manourve into narrow lanes.

To me, there is no difference between a mentality of a car driver compared to a motorcyclists. In fact, there are some drivers of very big cars who can get a bit arrogant on the road, acting as if they owned the road. You can see a motorcyclists swirling in and out of traffic, but because a car is bigger, it cannot do the same. So it is less obvious when a car driver misbehave but being a car driver for many years, I know that car drivers are no better.

Having stayed in Penang and Klang Valley, I note that there is a difference between a car driver in Penang and in the Klang Valley. Personally, I think a Penang car driver is the most daring, probably because the roads in Penang are smaller and the drivers need to be very creative if they want to get to a place fast in the constant jam (cars have increased so much but the roads are not wider or increasing at the same pace). So you find these car drivers weaving in and out of traffic to the extend of using the pavement as the road in desperate measures. I’ve sat in the car of a few of my guy friends in Penang and they literally drive like stuntmen.

But one thing good about Penang drivers is that, they always look after the motorcyclists. They drive with consideration of motorcyclists and both users seems to co-exist with harmony on the road. When I stayed in Penang, I seldom see the kind of attitude like what the drivers in KL have. Those inconsiderate drivers that you may see in Penang, not surprisingly may be driving a car with a license plate from KL (means they are from KL). In Klang Valley, sometimes people tend to look down on motorcyclist or form perceptions about them. Yes, of course there are reckless motorcyclists out there, just like there are even more reckless car drivers. But always remember that a motorcyclist is much more susceptible to injuries compared to a car driver. Just a little soft knock can throw a motorcyclist off balance, causing him/her to fall and in complete path of an oncoming vehicle.

Many years ago, a friend of mine who was riding pillion, was knock off by a speeding car becuase the driver was driving so fast that she could not brake in time. The impact caused her to fly off the bike and landed on a huge piece of sharp broken glass, cutting off the veins on her thigh and scarring both her hands and legs deeply. Doctors told her after the surgery that she may never be able to walk normally- that is she is ever going to walk at all. She will also have to live with the scars on her hands and legs, unless she opt for plastic surgery.

My friend was the eldest and the hope of her family as a bread winner. She was determined to get well, because she had to come out and earn money for her family and her schooling sibling. She had never failed to go for physiotherapy at the government hospital- even though she had to literally limp there in cast using crunches and travelling on public transport. It took her years but she had never lost hope and always try to stay positive. When she started working, she had to wear long sleeve and long pants to hide the scars. Today, she is able to walk like normal and was finally able to afford surgery to remove the scars. But that took a lot of determination and positive thinking.

There are many motorcyclists out there who drive with consideration and care. Many of them have families to support and go back to, just like we do. And they are doing their best to keep out of the way of the car drivers and to stay alive. At least, we get to sit in our air-conditioned car and listen to the radio regardless of the blazing hot sun or heavy thunderstorms.

Riding a motorbike in heavy rain is very painful, because when you are riding (at higher than walking speed), the rain will strike like little pin-prick needles, and when your clothes are soaking wet, and you ride in the wind, it’s really terribly terribly freezing cold. The sensation is many time worse than walking through the pouring rain.

Therefore, please be kind and considerate. Count your lucky stars that you can afford a car and need not be at the mercy of the elements and car drivers, balancing delicately only on 2 wheels.

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