Don’t you just hate bikers! They come into town in swarms, they occupy all the best spaces in the car park (and pay less for parking than real drivers), they drink all the beer in the local, and then they ride off with our girlfriends. Actually, I don’t know why I said that last one. Do they steal girls’ hearts away? To be honest, I’m not aware of any fat, greasy bikers capturing any part of any of my girlfriends. Perhaps bikers just have an image problem.
OK, so not bikers then. It’s the bikes, isn’t it? Don’t you really hate bikes! Can you imagine, if you invented the motorbike today, trying to get a roadworthiness certificate for one? ‘So you want to go out on the road in a car with only 2 wheels? Won’t you have to keep moving or fall over? Oh, you’d put your foot down and hold the thing up manually when you stop. So you have no doors or surrounding bodywork then? You wear a suit of armour presumably to protect you. No?! Just jeans! And where would the airbags go? Oh, no airbags. What about the bumpers on the front, how would they work in an accident? No bumpers. Right. So you’d need extra strong seat belts. Oh, don’t tell me, no seat belts. So you have a vehicle where you sit on the fuel tank, with the engine between your knees, which travels at 100mph, and you wear nothing but jeans and a jacket (oh, and a scarf!), have no windscreen, no doors, no seat belts, no bumpers, no air bags, and the passenger sits behind you with their arms round you to hold on? And you want to take that out onto the road?’
All the way along the main highway into the West Country they have signs saying ‘Think Bike’. I have done. What a stupid vehicle! But why should I think bike at all? This is pure discrimination, suggesting that a vehicle with 2 wheels is more worthy of attention than one with 18 wheels, say, or even one wheel. Actually you don’t see many one-wheeled vehicles on the motorway into Devon. But the highway is packed with traffic – 18-wheel intercontinental trucks full of groceries from Lithuania, SUVs full of children who have been taken out of school so that Mum and Dad can have a holiday on the cheap, and maybe just the odd unicycle. ‘Is There a Biker in Your Mirror?’; that’s another sign you see along this road. What’s wrong with bikers thinking ‘car’ or ‘truck’? Don’t they have motor cars and trucks in their mirrors? I’m far too busy thinking about that truck looming up in my mirror to think biker. But surely, if you’re going to zoom around on a petrol tank, with an engine between your knees, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a leather jacket, you’d be thinking car or truck or anything in fact on the road. Why should I have to watch out for these suicidal lunatics?
They’re not all be suicidal lunatics? OK, maybe it’s the notices, not the bikers, that I hate. If you like to feel the wind zipping through your clothing and can’t afford a suit of armour, you don’t really have much choice but to wear jeans and ride a bike, I suppose. Well, you could stand on the hill at Blackdown in your pyjamas perhaps; that’s quite a windy spot. But there are no pubs up there. Or girls very often. And they seem to prefer leather to winceyette anyway. And if you like leather jackets, I guess the bike is a natural progression.
Yes, that’s it; it's not the bikers or the bikes - it’s the notices. Don’t you just hate them! There is one on a particular stretch of main road, just as you enter Devon, which says, ‘7 bikers injured in the last 3 years.’ Surely this is a warning to bikers to steer clear of this lethal strip of tarmac. It can’t mean I’ve got to get out of the way if a bike comes screaming along the road, can it? It doesn’t mean that I have to think ‘bike’; it must mean that bikers have to think, ‘golly, this is a dangerous bit of road, I’ll go carefully along here.’ Doesn’t it? And anyway 7 injured isn’t very many. And ‘in 3 years’ doesn’t make for a very significant statistic actually.
Did you know – 10 people are injured every year from falling off chairs in their kitchen while trying to reach a jar of Nutella or Peanut Butter on the top shelf of the cupboard? (Notice it’s never Marmite by the way, a much safer condiment to handle, especially when standing on one leg on a carver or a stool). And 5 people a year are taken to hospital with fish bones stuck in their throats. These are much more frequent and much more serious accidents. And there is, so far, no regulatory regime for a chair or a fish knife either. Yet you never see signs saying ‘Think Kitchen’ or ‘Think Vertebrae’, do you? And no one has put up a sign saying ‘Watch Out for Housewives Standing on Chairs’ or ‘Is There a Seabass in your Mirror?’.
Clearly this all has to stop. What we need are signs all over the country saying, ‘If You’re Daft Enough to Ride Round on a Bike Without Chainmail, Think (if you’re capable of this action at all) Other Vehicles’.
I sat in a traffic jam on my way back from the West Country on Sunday and streams of bikers swept past me down the middle of the road. Yes, there was a biker in my mirror almost the whole time. And they were getting back to a nice comfortable home with someone else’s girlfriend, while I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do but read silly notices about bikes and bikers. But then I realised how those hapless 7 bikers were injured. It wasn’t from some freak accident as they overtook stationary motor cars and fell into a drainage ditch; it wasn’t from riding into an 18-wheel Lithuanian food truck or a rare shoal of seabass; it was from 7 jealous motorists who got out of their cars and hit them. That’ll teach them to evade sensible road safety legislation, take our girlfriends and get home first. So, if you fancy getting out onto the highway on your Super Cub C50 or your GL1800, think going north, young man, or east, or south, but, unless you feel you need to take even more risks, heed the notices and avoid the west on the last sunny weekend of summer.
Here’s a biker song from the Fountains of Wayne.