Motorbikes are the perfect transport for post-coronavirus commuting
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I find myself with a column to write and an issue to address... and an uphill struggle to convince most readers that I’m talking sense. I know that. But please give me a chance because I’m pretty sure I can convince you that, when lockdown ends, you should start riding a motorbike.
Still with me? Good – though I know some people will have stopped at that word: motorbike. Some folk think that “motorcycle” equals “danger”. Usually because they’ve heard a story about someone who had something happen, or maybe knew someone that had something that happen, or very occasionally because something happened to them on a motorcycle - but not often. Many people who are scared of bikes have never even sat a stationary one, never mind ridden one.
Now, I know you don’t need to have sat in a bathtub full of piranhas to be afraid of small fish with big teeth, but I wouldn’t write-off an entire species without first learning something about it first-hand. Similarly, I think it’s a mistake to write-off motorcycling until you’ve tried it yourself.
Not that bad things can’t happen on bikes. Let’s address that head on: if things go wrong on a bike, you are very exposed. It hurts. It can be bad. There’s none of the secondary safety you get in a car, which is basically a big protective box stuffed with airbags.
The only thing keeping a motorcyclist safe is the motorcyclist. You have to be able to use the road responsibly, controlling the urge to go fast, reading the traffic to anticipate and avoid any dangerous manoeuvres from other drivers (and resisting any road-rage tendencies) as well as reading the road to get along it safely. If you can’t do that in a car then, okay, maybe a motorcycle isn’t for you.
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But if you use the road sensibly, then a bike can be very safe. You can trust me on this as I have a diploma in advanced motorcycle instruction from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents - and that doesn’t mean I go round telling people to stop riding (quite the opposite). So riding a bike is something you should consider as you prepare to return to work once the lockdown restrictions ease, because a safely ridden motorcycle is the perfect transport for post-coronavirus commuting.
You don’t get more socially distanced than when you’re on a bike. You’re on your own, with gloves and a helmet on. Bikes don’t add to congestion on the road, they reduce it. The don’t overwhelm limited parking spaces in cities – you can get four bikes into the space of a car. They reduce journey times – not by speeding but by dodging queues. They don’t spew out pollution like cars, as modern bikes are green and frugal. With modern garages, you can pay at the pump, with your gloves on, and never worry about coming into contact with another person.
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I can see I still haven’t convinced a lot of you, but that’s okay. Because while I do genuinely think it would be good for a lot of commuters to switch to a motorcycle, what really matters now is that opportunities to commute this way aren’t reduced for those of us who already ride.
Unfortunately, bikes are increasingly being squeezed out of cities – the very places where they can solve transport problems, rather than adding to them. We should see our cities going in the other direction: opening bus lanes to motorcycles; providing more secure parking with lock-points; encouraging workplaces to provide more parking for motorbikes.
If the lifting of lockdown sees a mass move away from public transport to the private car, we’ll see air-quality in our cities plummet as congestion soars. And nobody wants that. So for a smooth transition from working at home to commuting again, you know what they say: think once, think twice... think bike.