Regular reader(s) of this blog will know that last year I returned to motorcycling after a good number of years without a bike, inspired by my wife’s desire to take her bike test. Returning to the scene many things have changed, and one of the things that has definitely changed for the better is that these days there appears to be less discrimination against motorcyclists.
In my early days on a bike, in the mid to late eighties, discrimination was terrible: as well as belonging to the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), which still exists, I was also a member of a group called Motorcyclists Against Discrimination (MAD), which as far as I can tell does not. At that time there seemed to be a reaction to motorcyclists, especially when in groups, akin to the reaction of our forebears when they saw hordes of Vikings approaching their village.
It was common to see signs outside pubs and cafés saying “No Motorcyclists”. Even if the signs weren’t there you were frequently refused service and/ or ordered to leave the premises for the heinous act of wearing a leather jacket and carrying a crash helmet.
Thankfully things have changed and these days you can turn up to a pub or café and, more often than not, you are welcomed with open arms. And generally, in my experience so far, this seems to be because on the whole motorcyclists are now quite a well behaved bunch. This was not always the case.
Even as I was a member of MAG and MAD in my youth I remember thinking that perhaps we were our own worst enemies. When in large groups motorcyclists did tend to get a bit boisterous and could be intimidating to the uninitiated. Generally this seems to be less the case now, although there are still a small number of idiots that seek to perpetuate the old stereotypes. Attending biker meets there is always someone red-lining their bike down the road at high speed, well beyond their capabilities, or pulling a wheelie past the pub to show off to their mates. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that most people present are more likely to be thinking “what an arsehole” than “what a hero”.
Sadly, the reason for this change of attitude may be that now you can’t afford to own, run and, critically, insure a motorcycle until you are old enough to know better. Motorcyclists these days are a much more mature bunch in all senses of the word.
It was a surprise to me earlier today then, to come across reckless and stupid behaviour of this type from a bunch of car drivers in, of all places, the sleepy Cotswold village of Bourton on the Water.
My wife and I had set out for a short ride and a cup of tea and, having battled through an unexpected fog, descended into the village to the sound of gunning engines. Entering the village at a sensible speed my wife was forced into an emergency stop as one of these idiots turned sharply right into a parking space, cutting across her path, apparently oblivious to her presence.
He looked suitably sheepish as a seriously pissed off 5’2″ woman gave him a well-deserved piece of her mind, but it did not stop him from continuing to rev his engine along with is mates and then commence roaring up and down the road.
So who were these idiots: teenagers in Corsas and Micras on a day trip from Cheltenham? No, these were men (always men!) in TVRs and Porsches. If they are old enough to afford to buy and insure such machines, then surely they should be old enough to know better. People that stupid shouldn’t have that much money.
Clearly the whole concept of high insurance to penalise the young and reckless isn’t working – instead there needs to be a basic intelligence test before issuing a license and it should be this, not age, that dictates your ability to drive/ ride: the lower the intelligence, the less impressive the machine.
On that criteria, the bunch in Bourton today would be banned from buying a hair dryer.