Opinion: Public Shaming

Last Friday morning, the cops pulled over a rider in Brampton who’d been reported as speeding. They charged him with having no licence, no insurance, and no visible plate, then filmed him pushing his bike home. Then they posted the video on Twitter.

“Nobody says ‘It’s a great day for a bike push,” tweeted Const. Ian Michel, posting as OPP Central Region. “No license and no insurance resulted in over $5,300 in fines … but got some extra cardio. #ridesafe”

Don’t worry – I have absolutely no sympathy for the rider. He brings a bad name on all motorcyclists. With his sportbike and hidden plate, he was probably one of those guys who’ve been swarming motorists and generally being assholes.

Probably. But…

When I started riding, I did it all properly, just as I should. I bought a small motorcycle from a friend when I was still 15 and got my licence on my 16th birthday. I got basic insurance for a couple of hundred bucks, and a month later, I took a motorcycle safety course. If this guy in Brampton wants to ride a motorcycle, he should have done the same thing.

Except maybe this guy decided last year that he’d like to finally ride a motorcycle just like his friends. He bought a bike from a dealer, or a friend, who convinced him that 100 hp was no big deal if he just took it easy. He already knew the rules of the road from driving a car, so it was just a matter of getting some practice.

He couldn’t take a training course because Covid closed them down for most of the season, and he couldn’t graduate from his written M1 licence because Covid also closed down the provincial testing. Worst of all, after he’d bought the bike he started shopping around for insurance with an M1 licence and found it would cost him at least $10,000. So he didn’t get insured, figuring he’d do it once he’d obtained his M2 licence.

But in the meantime, the bike was just sitting there, and last Friday was a glorious day in southern Ontario for a motorcycle ride, and he had all the gear, so off he went. And then he rode like an asshole because he doesn’t know any better, and the cops got him, and the rest is Twitter history.

I made a half-hearted attempt to find the guy through some local forums, but I didn’t try too hard. I knew he shouldn’t tell me his sob story if he’s planning to fight his tickets – mostly, I wanted to know if he just hopped on the bike as soon as the cruiser left. I also didn’t bother calling the OPP for more details because that’s not the point. Like I said, he probably is one of those assholes that responsible riders detest because they ruin motorcycling for the rest of us.

In a way, though, he’s very likely a product of our own failing. Insurance is cripplingly expensive in this province, so much so that many riders just can’t afford it and they fall into the easy temptation of riding without it. Here in Ontario, new riders are expected to gain some experience with their basic M1 licence so they’re good enough to pass the test for their M2 licence. This is why they must hold the M1 licence for a minimum of 60 days before they’re eligible to take the test, but for no more than 90 days. Most Ontario insurance companies won’t insure M1 motorcyclists, however, and for the few that do, it’s not uncommon to pay more than $4,000 for a basic, low-powered machine.

So most new riders just take the written test for their M1 licence, then wait for two months until they can pass their parking-lot test on a school bike after a weekend of crammed training. With the M2 licence, insurance becomes a lot less expensive, though it will depend on the machine and the rider’s age and driving experience.

Maybe this Brampton guy’s M1 licence had expired. Maybe he thought he’d try motorcycling for a while before he made an investment in it. Maybe he had no intention of ever getting a motorcycle licence – there are plenty of unlicensed riders on the road, most of whom think that if they’re going to ride without unaffordable insurance, there’s no point in bothering with a licence, and so no point in getting trained and learning how to be safe.

If this guy is one of those riders, it was just stupid of him to draw attention to himself by allegedly speeding and having an obscured licence plate. I have no sympathy for him. But I remember that I was just 15 when I bought myself that first, small motorcycle, and I remember that the temptation was far too great for me to leave it in the garage and wait for the legality of my 16th birthday. I rode that little bike all over the place, always on quiet back roads so it wasn’t as serious when I crashed every day for the first week, learning on the go.

I got away with it back then and played by the rules as soon as I was old enough to do so. If we had affordable insurance in Ontario, and if our motorcycle safety courses out on windswept parking lots weren’t locked down by Covid precautions, I’m sure plenty of unlicensed riders in this province would be happy to play by the rules too. Maybe not this Brampton guy, but you never know.


  1. What does insurance cost across the country? In BC my KLR650 costs $600./year without collision. I’m 66 and live on Bowen Island so it’s difficult ot steal from my house.

    • In Quebec it’s the registration that gets you. Sport Bikes are $2,000 per year, but every other bike is a bargain. Most bikes pay $700, and it’s $500 for under 40cc — and half that for 125cc.
      Insurance in usually dirt cheap — about $2-$300 for me. So low I ignore it.

  2. I could not agree more then with the chap who said “society no longer feels there are consequences for their actions”. The bike should be impounded for 30 days, fine $25000 minimum, and 30 days prison period. Until the risk out ways the reward it simply won’t stop. I am a rider, I ride a 6 cylinder motorcycle, I can pass or engage with pretty much anything with a motor, yet I drive as I should and the odd time I ride with some spirit but never in a city or even on a congested highway. I have way to much fun doing the speed limit , + -15 k and have travelled just over 240,000 km on my motorcycles over the years. No tickets ever. If i lost my license I could not work, I could not pay to live the life I enjoy. If you are going to be an idiot, well then you have no choice but to pay IMHO

  3. In Ontario one of the reasons motorcycle insurance is so high is because of “no fault” insurance. It is “no fault” in the sense that the motorcyclists insurance covers the rider and the car insurance policy covers the driver. This is regardless of who’s fault it is. According to the admittedly ancient “Hurt Report” almost 2/3s of accidents involving a car/truck and a motorcycle are the cagers fault. Now the expensive side of insurance payouts are due to personal injury. Do the math and you will see motorcyclists are subsidizing bad cager drivers through our insurance.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Terry O

  4. Truly… We as riders pay a lot to play. Insurance rates are brutal and based per bike not the rider. This is a whole other problem that has come about. If you have more then 1 bike, you pay per bike. You can only ride one at a time. Go figure.
    As for this ass clown, I hope for his sake he has learned a lesson, but probably not (to everyone’s dismay)
    He should have had his license, what ever rating, suspended. Bottom line.
    With the society that we live in now, the only way to get through to them is make the penalties severe enough for them to think twice. Even then it is not enough, so that’s when public shaming comes into play.
    Everyday I see some ass hat ripping around on their bike without plates, some without lights. Aka track bikes. This burns me up, society now feels there are no consequences for their actions.
    I hope this guys legs hurt for a week from pushing the bike.
    F’ng retard

  5. I agree that insurance pricing, especially for new riders, is absurd in Ontario. Although, they have their reasons for pricing it that way, I suppose – new riders are rather more prone to crashing, and with Ontario’s insurance system that can be expensive for the insurer (even leaving costs of fixing/replacing the bike out of the equation). But riding without insurance is NOT cool. The fact that something is difficult or expensive doesn’t justify doing an end-run on the rules.

  6. Don’t want to sound like a hard ass, but we’ve all had to make sacrifices because of COVID – we’ve all missed out on opportunities and temptations and been inconvenienced because of closures. What burns me is my insurance company in Ontario has given me a paltry rebate on my auto insurance even though my car has stayed mostly in the garage. They won’t offer a similar rebate on my bike insurance even though I’ve been barely using it, especially since I haven’t commuted to work the past two riding seasons.

  7. Obscured plate or no plate ? Its really tough to tell from the video. If its no plate at all, why didn’t the gendarmes impound the bike ? As you state, no excuses for riding dirty but I suspect there is more to this story than we know.
    There are more than a few people out there playing fast and loose with the rules, in cars and on e-bikes and motos. The number of phony, hidden or expired plates is ridiculous. Play by the rules and work to change the rules or suffer the consequences. No sympathy in this case.

Join the conversation!