Paul responds to feedback from his previous editorial piece regarding the woeful state of New Zealand’s drivers.
It’s been an interesting month since my last editorial (Bike Rider Magazine Issue 165). If you didn’t read it, I had a bit of a moan about the standard of the road drivers out there and recounted a couple of examples of the atrocious driving I’d witnessed firsthand in the couple of weeks prior to the magazine going to print. You know, just the normal stuff; like a car stopping dead in the outside lane of the northern motorway because a police car was trying to get past and had its lights on, or a couple of counts of cars coming straight at me over the centreline because the dimwit driver was on their poxy phone.
Well, it seemed to have struck a chord with you readers out there, as I have been inundated with emails of thanks and support for actually pointing out the sort of astounding behaviour we as motorcyclists, witness on a daily basis, and that it’s not just tourists. The level of driving skills in New Zealand are preposterously low, and when you add increased traffic levels, mobile phones and a spot of rain, it’s no wonder the result is some unfortunate souls not making it home.
It’s true that motorcyclists have been disproportionately represented over this summer, but as usual, the mainstream media are jumping on the bandwagon and whipping up a frenzy, that, if we’re not too careful, will see the motorcycling population targeted and penalised once again due to the ill-informed opinions of those who shout loudest.
There’s no denying that a decent amount of motorcycle accidents is listed as single vehicle incidents, but that doesn’t tell us the story. Being based in Paeroa, we are at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula, an area that has been singled out as a high-risk location for motorcycles. As such, special barriers were put in place to protect us if we slide into them, extra signage and changes to the markings on the roads were added to make us aware of sharp corners, and they even put helicopter pads in for easier access for medical staff. It was all rather good.
Except, one branch obviously didn’t get the memo, and it’s quite an important one – the branch that’s in charge of repairing the roads. Yep, you guessed it. Absolutely no thought is given to motorcycles during road repairs as usual, making the Coromandel Loop a minefield of loose gravel and slick surfaces over the summer period.
Riding north of Tairua, I witnessed one of the worst disregards for motorcycle safety, with gravel added to areas where they’d widened the road and included new barriers, simply left to coat the road. With no signage and cars barrelling through without a care, it was only a matter of time before an unwary motorcyclist was going to be in the hands of Lady Luck as to whether they’d make it home that night.
As I think we all know, statistics can be massaged to supply any outcome required, so I don’t necessarily believe we’re all simply running off the roads by ourselves. We all know we’re responsible for our own actions and that it usually hurts when we get it wrong, so I’d hazard a guess we’re more likely to upskill and concentrate on what we’re doing than some SUV road hog who’s tailgating, texting and tweeting at the same time.
What scares me is the stats that the government will see popping up from the media and what jerk of the knee they’re likely to make. Instead of embracing motorcycles and appreciating the increased skills it gives drivers and the reduction in congestion a simple 10% shift from driving to riding would give, chances are they’re going to try and put us off some more.
With everything that requires common sense and a fraction of risk being outlawed at a frightening rate, you’ve got to think getting on a motorcycle and going for a ride is beyond the realms of what is acceptable by a government lackey who sits behind a desk and pushes pens. The people who like to sit in a box by themselves, emit carbon while searching for exciting but safe things to do on their cell phones are already screaming about ‘dangerous’ lane splitting. Or is it simply that they’re jealous…?