So I try to refrain from commenting on many many threads that appear on a number of FB groups… It’s not because I couldn’t annihilate the idiocy with a few easy key strokes. In fact a couple of quick weblinks and a point in the right direction would probably stun a few in to silence. But the others? Well, there are just too many stoopids.
Recently I noticed a thread on TT Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. An FB group I have been part of for a while; I love bikes, lived on the Isle of Man, and my ex is one of it’s administrators. To be honest, the site is all a bit blow-hard and narcissistic – with random strangers posting questions like: “I want to buy a bike, what should I get”? Seriously, if you have to ask an FB group that kind of question, you really shouldn’t be thinking of going out on the road. Or comments that include slagging off racing personalities or other peoples’ bikes. It can get aggressive, offensive, and just damn stupid. But you ignore the silly banter and ignorance because it is one of the largest memberships for bike enthusiasts on Facebook… and sometimes there are interesting gems posted that help others, or make you ponder. Though more rarely of late.
Last night’s thread however, made me angry. There’s a portion of riders that feel being on a bike is the ultimate in freedom. And they aren’t wrong – the open road, the camaraderie, the adventure, the customsing of their bikes for individual need and aesthetics… but at this time of year the subject of what to wear on a bike gets brought up frequently. The dissing of those that choose to get out on the road in just a tshirt and jeans or even more controversially, shorts. It’s an interesting topic and people who rarely comment can be seen making strong statements; some extreme and some very very stupid. Now, the majority of mature bikers with mileage under their belts know what it feels like to hit the tarmac at pace. It hurts. It scars. And it makes people think twice about how they fell, how exposed they are to injury, and how to protect themselves in the future.
Yesterday’s thread began with a guy suggesting a bike rider he saw on the motorway wearing just a tee and shorts was a Prick. Of course he is a prick. A prize idiot. But unsurprisingly it kicked off a long list of people saying things like, “It’s his choice” and “wrap up in overboard life-numbing health and safety bubble-wrap cotton wool and never leave the house..” rants in protest at the postee’s original assertion. And I don’t necessarily disagree. Riding bikes is a beautiful, crazy, thrilling experience. A great way to get around. And a pretty special leisure time activity. As a commuter, doing many miles amongst cars that pull out, don’t indicate, don’t look, or veer across your path purely to restrict your safe maneuver..? Well, that’s when the ride becomes a whole lot less fun. And a much more risky way of moving from A to B.
So as a rider, is there an element of responsibility to ensure you take precautions? Of course. You are always paying attention. Your roadcraft becomes detail-orientated and hazard perception is finely tuned – you want to stay alive. But is someone who wears a tshirt and flip-flops taking the piss? Being a prick? Yes. Yes, very much so. Not because he is being free and choosing a spirited way of life, but because the results of that car pulling out in front of him, or the melting of cotton into his backside as he slides down the road, means that it is not just about him. Not just about HIS choices.
While the pressure on the NHS is global news, and an important political tool for this election, we are all very aware of the limited resource; the cost of this creaky old ship to our communities, indirectly to our pay cheques, and our economy. I wonder at the blase attitude these guys have for the emergency services and healthcare communities, that have to mop up and sew up, so many of them every day.
I suggested they contemplate this aspect, that if they had to pay for their healthcare, would they behave differently? They didn’t like that. Almost to a man (yup, no women in this thread) they responded quickly… with justification like, but smokers put more pressure on the NHS, or stabbings and car crashes put more pressure on the NHS… or some other utterly divergent irrelevant argument. Much of the following rhetoric was knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion that their freedoms were under attack. They weren’t. I was merely pondering the idea that as a community, there was an element of responsibility to be thoughtful, to do what they can for the greater good – I’ve seen the hours dedicated hospital staff commit to bike crash victims, have lost friends through ‘accidents’ on the road, have tweezed out melted denim from the thigh of a lover… not all injuries can be avoided. On a bike you are so damn vulnerable. But sometimes, and with just a little care, you can limit the impact, try to ensure the scars are lessened, and just be sensible.
This doesn’t take away your right to ride. Or your freedom. But it may just save the tax payer some pingers, mean that a nurse can finish her shift on time, allow the blood bags to go to a person who had no choice in how they were hurt. Or may be… even save your life.