If I were poetic and possessed the skill I would write an ode to the bravehearts and Tomfools I meet everyday. Why? well it is about time I explained what I have experienced here daily since March and also less frequently since August 2008. Traffic.
As you know or may not know, I own a motorbike. Expertly taught to ride it in 10 minutes by my good friend Richard and then given some sterling advice by Helen. 5 months later I am pleased to say that I have survived the crush. A minor collision on the scary flyover on Dann Mogot (for those that dont know, it is an elevated road way for the dedicated bus lane but everyone uses it as speed and it is 2 way with each lane wide enough for a car or a bus and if you are exceptionally stupid you can overtake on it on a motorbike, I just collided with a man pushing a bike on the flyover, dick) and is about all. A Mercedez ran over my foot but that never hurt and a few clipped mirrors thats all.
So I digress. I do have plans to film the journey to school and post it and see what you think but I have to work that out and that will take time.
So back to the title. Bravehearts and Tomfools. Imagine you are in a car and driving down the road. Thats pretty easy. Imagine the roads are busy and there are no markings or signs, that gets a little less easy. Now imagine there are lots of mini buses full of people and then mini vans full of people driving around. It is getting busy. Then these vehicles dont have lights, mainly no brake lights or indicators and just stop any where and everywhere to get people on and off them. Is it getting hard now to imagine. Well its not over. Then add motorbikes, All shapes and sizes on the road. Many people without helmets, school kids, parents, deliveries, me, A/C fitters, food deliverers etc. You would hope they are all going in the same direction as you. Think on. They are coming at you and overtaking you and at speed. Finally you have men directing parking cars, people going places and the odd bicycle. The crush is a scary place. Top speed for all this is 30kph or 19mph so its not that fast but the volume and recklessness of drivers is total.
Many dont have licences, those that do may not have taken a test (me included, I first rode a bike in March 2008), vehicles dont need to be MoT'd, or have insurance. Commercial vehicles do but how good the test or how much the bribe is I dont know. The skill of the driver is purely dependent on how brave they are or how slow they drive.
So I have kinda painted the scene, now one final one. Two mini buses overtaking a line of traffic into oncoming traffic and motorbikes on sidewalks or pavements and traffic gets jammed. Where do you go? Well as a cyclist you have to weave through traffic to keep moving.
Last night I stuck in a gap between the curb and a car. The motorcyclist in front, had an argument with the car driver, knocked his mirror, banged the car and sped off, why? Well because the cyclist was a tomfool who has little patience and no concern. The rule of thumb is the bigger the vehicle the more they rule. It is true here until the largest vehicle is a car and the majority of vehicles are motorbikes. Think of army ants swarming over their vastly bigger prey and destroying it. It is pretty much the same thing here.
The braveheart riders are those that over take the overtaking car who is overtaking a bus who is letting people off and the rider is riding straight into a line of traffic, forcing the line to stop or swerve as the rider wont give way. That is way beyond stupidity, it is way beyond dangerous....
Someone said to me the other day, You live then you die. Its life no more. Being a rider here I can accept that. Being a western rider who uses his horn to alert others not get them out of the way, uses indicators to show where I am going and only overtakes when the danger is less than 90% I am often seen riding along shaking my head in total shock and awe. Even more than the other riders who will stare at me when the go by because I am a white man on a motorbike doing what they do everyday. They are probably thinking why dont I have a car?
If I had a car I would be so stressed by now I would have sold it. If I had a car I would be rich and I would employ a driver to drive me so I dont have the worry of driving the car.
I enjoy riding in the city. It is a great place to ride when the traffic is light and it is not too hot. Once you are confident and sure you are alert it is great to do.
Staying alert is the key. Not going to fast or slow, not taking risks which are going to hurt too much. Knowing the widths of the gap. Using the mirrors? no that is not the thing to do really as the blind spots are too many and also if I spend too much time looking in the mirror, the motorcyclist heading towards me in the dark with no lights or the motorcyclist with a white light as a break light who is slowing down will be missed and then there will be a pile of people on the ground. I have seen too many people hurt on the roads, fall off, crash, bleed and hit cars to know it is better to ride straight and be very alert.
The rain on Tuesday was so heavy that the whole trip to school involved riding in water which was in place a foot deep. I saw one rider over take and fall off. 1 stop too fast and fall over and several riders pushing their bikes as they had broken down.
The thing is that people here have to get to the next place really quickly so that when they are there they can sit about all day and take it easy. Why? If the riders behaved and the cars and buses drove straight and gave warning about their intentions it would be great.
If I return to the UK I would love a motorbike, but I am not 100% sure I would be appreciated riding around without a helmet, going down 1 way streets the wrong way and then looking at you like it is your fault. Weaving through traffic and not obeying rules and signs. Arrested, maybe, hit by others, yes. Hurt by other drivers oh yes.
There are so many dangers, scary life threatening moments and total disbelief when I ride my bike that I cant list them all. I shall continue to do so and I will get a new one soon, bigger, more powerful not so I can go quicker but so it can carry the weight lol!!
I think I am almost a braveheart on the road although I will endeavour to always be safe. The only other concern is the air......... black jet black, carbon monixde and other poisons straight into the lungs and then the blood. I read that tomatoes are good for the lungs, lucky me, I eat tomatoes at least every other day so maybe it will help.
So the next time you complain about the bloody traffic, consider me in the crush. The crush of traffic squeezing you along the narrow streets, A tractor is a nuisance. Riding along with 4000 other vehicles is beyond even being stuck behind a caravan on the M5....