Monday, March 16, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly of motorbike riding in city

BACK in the 1970s, having a motorcycle licence was every boy's dream before leaving secondary school. An "L" was enough to earn the envy of your peers but a full licence would impress your older friends even more.

Licence ownership put you among those who had "arrived" -- although where you were going then depended heavily on your dad's permission, especially where taking off on his Honda Cub C50 was concerned.

If you had a valid motorcycle licence, you could work as a peon or a delivery boy while waiting for your Lower Certificate of Education or Malaysian Certificate of Education results.

You could then gain some financial freedom and inch nearer to the greater dreams in your life, like buying your own motorcycle, for instance.

It is not hard to understand why motorcycles are popular even today, especially among the lower income group. It is cheaper to own than a car, cost much less to run, easy to park and can get you through the thickest of traffic jams. These two wheelers are definitely built for a concrete jungle like Kuala Lumpur.

Lately, the city's womenfolk have also found it very practical to ride motorcycles. In fact, they have turned riding into poetry in motion as they zip full-throttle through jams in flowing blouses and high heels -- of course, with their make-up well protected by their full-face helmets.

Some of these female bikers beat the best men on the road. They don't seem to care for their safety nor pay heed to the traffic cameras.

Swerve into their paths and be prepared to be on the receiving end of a very nasty sign language.

God help you if you get involved in an accident with a motorcyclist, be it man or woman.

Rest assured you will be quickly acquainted with their brotherhood, especially the helmet-wielding hoods, who are ready to make mince meat out of you.

There is a solidarity that exists between bikers. If one is involved in an accident, others will be all too willing to help, unlike car drivers, who, in events of similar nature, would only be interested in your car registration plate number, especially if anyone died.

Survivors of close encounters with biking mobs have advised self-restraint and economy of words -- don't argue with them unless you have a death wish.

In its ugliest form, errant bikers take the shape of the Mat Rempit, the mini version of the Western hell biker.

What these Malaysian bikers lack in size in machines, they make up with noise and numbers. You spot them from a mile away, a noisy convoy bent on making fools of themselves and terrorising others.

And some even take hooliganism to a whole new level by "graduating" into snatch thieves. Having not had much success in dealing with the menace, city authorities are now mulling the possibility of prohibiting motorcycles from certain streets.

Victims of biker rage will welcome this proposal by the police.

Car drivers, too, will heave a sigh of relief with one less potential roadkill to avoid.

Should it be implemented by City Hall, pedestrians would also be able to enjoy a walk in the city's streets without having to hold on tight to their belongings each time a motorcycle approaches.

As for me, I am just keeping my fingers crossed that the snatch thieves will not go on foot and that city roads are wide enough for more cars should bikers now find more reason to switch their mode of transport.

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