Once you strip the stereotypes, riding a motorbike starts to make perfect sense
Tuesday 06 March 2012
You've got to be crazy to be a biker; weaving in and out of traffic at full throttle, blasting past cyclists and dodging pedestrians as you go. They treat the roads like a video game, taking their lives in their hands and putting everyone nearby in danger for the sake of a quick journey. They're unhinged. You can see it in the way they glare at scooters.
But then, in front of every biker who loathes scooters, is a taxi driver waiting to maim them with a surprise U-turn. Bikers and scooters can find common ground there. And what about the tipper trucks? Those left-turning leviathans are danger to anything on two wheels, particularly cyclists. So we can expand our two-wheeler alliance to include the pedal pushers, as long as we ignore them as they blast through red lights.
The problem with stereotypes is they encourage you to forget there's a person in control of the vehicle, whether it's a motorbike, taxi or bicycle. Lumping everyone together by their choice of transport strips away their humanity and turns commuting into a war.
The real madness is believing the labels. Given enough time poking around your mind, a psychoanalyst could probably predict what vehicle you'd drive, but stereotyping people by their choice of transport is meaningless. Let's not blame the vehicle and instead focus on the person driving or riding it badly.
Motorbikes and scooters aren't as unsafe as their image suggests. Their reputation is brought about by those who misuse them, not by the majority who ride to work and back every day without incident. If you've thought of learning to ride, don't be put off by the scaremongering. It's cheaper and quicker than a car, and you rarely get stuck in traffic. You no longer have to crush yourself into a train each day or shape your life around their timetables. It's also easy to learn. You'll first need a provisional motorcycle licence, regardless of whether or not you already have one for a car. Then you need to pass compulsory basic training (CBT), which most people do in a day. After that you can ride unsupervised on a learner-legal bike displaying L-plates but you won't be allowed on motorways or to take a passenger until you pass your full test. You have two years to do that, or you'll need to retake your CBT.
The only gear you must wear while riding is a helmet but it's best to get a jacket, gloves and boots as well. You can pick up used learner-legal bikes from about £1,000 and around another £250 will be enough for basic protective kit. Get a decent lock too, the best you can afford; it will last ages. The price of the CBT varies between schools but if you budget for £100, it won't be far off. If all this sounds like a hefty sum, just count the cost of a year's commuting by train. After that you're saving money, time and stress every day. And you've invested that cash in a bike you can sell on later. They hold their value well, as there is always a market for learner-legal vehicles.
The only thing standing in your way is a healthy fear of accidents, which just means you will be alert on the roads and proves you're not crazy. And that makes you an ideal person to start riding.
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