Monday, January 24, 2011

Motorcycle riders' dance with death

A LADY biker I read about in one of the dailies recently likened riding a bike to dancing the salsa -- you need to twist left and right, she was quoted as saying. Although I did not agree with her, I am happy she has finally explained why some bikers are so fond of weaving in and out of traffic. A silent rhapsody must have triggered the odd behaviour.
You have met some of the notorious ones, have you not? I am not talking about the Mat Rempit, whose status has now been reduced to Gengster Jalanan (or road hoods) to prevent further glorification of the nickname.

I am talking about the regular road bikers you and I meet on our way to work and back daily -- the sensible folk who need a job, money and good health as much as you and I do. Those you meet at the office, the food stalls or the pasar malam, and whom you would not mind being friends with -- until they put on their helmets and throttle up.

You often catch sight of them in your rear view mirror as you wait your turn at the traffic lights or during a jam. They weave in and out of the lanes of cars behind yours. Often, the sight of them make you go weak in the knees as you pray that they will not ram their machines into your car's rear bumper yet again, or smash your side mirror as they shoot past you.

On unlucky days when they do break your side mirror, you pray hard that they will not be caught off-balance by their own folly and injure themselves and blame you for it.

I am sure you have had the daylights scared out of you at the traffic junctions when some of them shot off to a flying start even before the traffic lights on their side had turned green. Not too long ago, a long-haired biker showed me how a two-wheeler can put my four-wheeler to shame on the fast lane. I did not know where to put my face when I finally caught up with the biker at the junction -- only to find that it was a makcik in a leather jacket and jeans riding a kapcai.

I remember that in the old days bikers used to show more courtesy to other road users. They also had greater respect for the law. Today, the road manners of some of them leave very little to be desired. They no longer ride on the left side of the road or keep to speed limits.

Maybe it's advertisement puffery that drives them to think that it is stylish to ride fast and furious. Perhaps we can blame technology for coming up with lighter machines that have more power to do more harm than good, especially if the power-crazy throw caution to the wind.

Some people tell me that it is the perception that, in the event of an accident between a car and a bike, the law will always side the biker. Could this have driven most sane people to do crazy things on a bike then? Really, does it matter who is in the right or wrong when bikers lose a limb, or life in an accident?

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