Many years ago, when I first embarked on my motorcycle journey, an instructor started off the first day of class by talking about attitude. “Getting on a bike when you’re upset or angry will cause you to be distracted,” he told us, “Your attitude and frame of mind when you get on the bike will determine how you ride.” Not as catchy as the better-known adage, “Dress to slide, not to ride,” but still a valuable piece of advice that I’m able to recall verbatim 16 years later. Not being focused or in the right headspace could result in unsafe behaviour or cause unnecessary mistakes.
Given the global pandemic, social unrest, and deeply divided political climate, I suppose that it should come as no surprise that I’ve seen more aggressive, illegal riding in the first two months of this season than I’ve witnessed in the last five combined.
I’ve had my fair share of speeding infractions over the years, but I also respect the machine and value my life. Just the other afternoon, I witnessed a dozen or so riders blasting through heavy highway traffic, splitting lanes and veering onto the shoulder to pass at easily twice the speed limit. Roughly half of them had their license plates flipped up and several didn’t even bother having them at all. I’ve been noticing a growing sentiment online where an increasing number of riders are claiming to chance getting caught and reprimanded by police rather than having valid plates and insurance. Not a smart strategy.
Given my age, the motorcycles I own, and my driving record, I spend an exorbitant amount on insurance every year. I can’t say I’m a big fan of forking over my hard-earned pennies, but paying for coverage could save me a lot of trouble in the future. “Riding dirty” is a shortsighted solution that ends up costing everyone more in the long run.
Fines for driving without valid insurance can result in fines between $5,000 to $25,000 for the first offence, then $10,000 to $50,000 for subsequent offences – not including the fees and hassle involved with vehicle impound and license suspension. Saving a few bucks a month still seem like a good plan?
Not only are riders acting out, but drivers and pedestrians have shorter fuses. People are angry and frustrated. I’ve had several encounters with road rage over the years, but nothing like I’ve experienced over the last year. People’s nerves are shot and it’s showing.
Just last week I had a personal run-in with a stranger that was seemingly the combination of road rage and roid rage. Riding two-up with my lady friend along a four-lane road, the car ahead of us abruptly stopped without signalling or providing any notice whatsoever. I gave a quick beep of the horn, as did the car stopped behind me. That’s when a short, sleeveless, muscular man who resembled a cast member of the Jersey Shore approached the car which was evidently a ride share service. He began aggressively spewing homophobic slurs and expletive laden insults before coming over and standing directly in front of us, demanding I get off the bike in the middle of the busy street to fight him. Given that I’m a civilized grownup with much to lose, I opted not to accept his invitation. Worst case scenario – I lose the fight and my pride while leaving my motorcycle and passenger vulnerable to someone who is clearly unstable. Best case scenario – I win the fight and leave myself open to being arrested for assault. Given the fact I was wearing armour reinforced gauntlet gloves, a case could be made for them being considered weapons.
Nevertheless, try as he might to bait me for what seemed like minutes, cooler heads prevailed. The driver of his ride witnessed the ordeal and left him behind. I was able to ride off while he was distracted, leaving the crowd of bystanders that had assembled with their camera phones raised. Arriving home safely, I wondered if the whole damn world had gone mad.
There’s no question we’re all struggling with frustration and anxiety at the moment. Worrying about the health and well-being of friends and family members amid the uncertainty is completely understandable. But there’s no excuse for putting yourself or others in unnecessary danger. Next time you’re about to lose your cool and feel compelled to honk or flip someone off, maybe just take a couple deep breaths and relax. Try giving the right of way and maybe finding some healthy coping mechanisms to let the pressure out in slow bursts so it doesn’t irreparable harm to yourself or someone else. And if you want to ride twice the speed limit without insurance, take it to the racetrack.