car-bike

Motorcycles as an alternative

Tonio Darmanin

One of the relatively obvious was of reducing congestion and the negative effects related to it on our roads is to further popularize the use of motorcycles and scooters.  Distances are limited and we are blessed with ideal weather conditions.  A step in this direction was taken at the beginning of this yea when it became legal to ride two-wheelers up to 125cc on the strength of one’s car driving licence, without having to take a specific motorcycle test.  There are a couple of conditions including a number of hours of theoretical and practical tuition and under this scheme one is precluded from carrying a pillion rider.

Whilst agreeing with this move, I had commented prior too its implementation, that this initiative only made sense if this was done in conjunction with two other important measures namely that the road infrastructure is improved to make it safer for motorcycle and scooter users and secondly that an educational programme directed at all road users and backed by serious enforcement is undertaken.

Unfortunately this did not happen and we are seeing large numbers of new motorcycle users joining the mayhem on our roads but whilst this might temporarily alleviate some of the congestion problems we face on a daily basis, it could well be that this situation would start creating a set of problems of its own.

So far this year we have what potentially could be the worst record for road fatalities ever and out of the 22 victims so far, 9 people lost their lives riding motorcycles.  Although hardly any of these tragedies are related to the new concession since in most cases bigger bikes where involved, this is still having a very negative effect on what should have been a positive measure.

For motorcycles and scooters to become a serious alternative and for their increased use to have an effect on the current situation on our roads, a different approach is needed.  Our roads are not designed or constructed for speed so abuse in this regards needs to be addressed and controlled.  Without a doubt, the importance of education cannot be underestimated but at this stage of the proceedings, a massive effort on enforcement is unavoidable.

A relatively large proportion of road users disregard rules and behave egoistically so regaining control of the situation is no mean feat.  Contrary to anywhere else in Europe, drivers here feel that they can get away with impunity and unfortunately this is true even of foreigners driving locally.

Regarding the road infrastructure, a first step was taken by introducing special barriers on certain segments of the coast road.  Whilst this is tiny step in the right direction, a professional approach is  needed to review and improve the infrastructure over the medium and long-term whilst eliminating situations of imminent danger immediately.

Motorcycle riders often lament that other road users need to respect them but in reality they need to start off by respecting themselves.  Apart from not abusing, particularly with speed, riders unfortunately need to ride with the fear of God in them.  They cannot take other’s observance of traffic regulations for granted and must be constantly vigilant, continuously expecting the unexpected.

Apart from removing some of the pleasure of riding, as does the constant anxiety manifested by the families and friends of most bikers, this is actually having a negative effect on the number of people who might consider motorcycles as alternative form of transport.

In addition to enforcement, we also need to educate the motorcycle rider and other road users including pedestrians.  Respect, etiquette, patience and an overall knowledge of basic rules are seriously lacking on our roads.