Have Traffic congestion, fuel prices, parking, taxes – it’s tough being a motorist these days.
But what is the alternative? Downgrade to a City Rover? Brew your own fuel? Move to Dubai? Partial solutions at best.
But do you know what special event is scheduled for the third week in July? Yes, well done, you’re absolutely right, it’s National Ride to Work Day, organised by the Motorcycle Industry Organisation.
So have you ever thought about two wheels?
I don’t mean bicycles - they only work downhill, and I’m not suggesting that you send your wife to Tesco on a Honda Fireblade. I’m just thinking about a suitable vehicle for commuting and local journeys, that won’t trigger another sub prime lending crisis and that you can park closer to town than where you actually live.
In Mediterranean countries such as Spain or Italy half the population seems to get around on various forms of two wheeled transport, everything from classic mopeds with pedals to smart looking 500cc Step-throughs with fully enclosed mechanicals and 100mph performance.
Why is this so? The average continental motorist is, after all, no more oppressed than we are.
It is rather difficult to put a finger on it, but I suppose the weather must have something to do with it (one thing worse than riding a moped is riding one in the rain.) And of course, parking is easy, you just leave it anywhere. But economics is more likely to be the most significant factor. Mediterranean countries tend to have large rural areas with a relatively low per capita income and if you take a wrong turn in, say, Naples (like I did) and you find yourself driving through one of the less salubrious suburbs, you will get a whole new take on western urban poverty. (It’s like Cairo with less mud.)
The fact is that the average 20something in Italy would love to have a Fiat Punto but he or she just can’t afford it. Which is why Italians live at home with their Mums until they are 35.
The question is, should we be encouraging people to get out of their cars and try two wheeled transportation?
I gave up on two wheels a generation ago when I bid farewell to my Triumph Bonneville. To be honest, whilst I used to fancy myself as something of a hotshot in a car, I always knew that, despite a flamboyant riding style, I could never really cut it on a bike. In a car you see, it is possible to compensate for a lack of talent with other factors such as bravery and luck. However, this approach works less well on a motorcycle. Bikes are far less accommodating than cars when you misjudge a bend, or fail to take account of a change in road surface, and if an inattentive car driver wants the same bit of road as you then it’s going to end in tears. So my instinct for self preservation overcame the urge to become a ‘Born again biker’.
And this, of course is the problem. People do the daftest things in cars and usually get away with it, but even people who know what they’re doing fall off bikes. I do rather worry that the NHS might struggle to cope with the fallout from a massive move to two wheeled transport.
So what are the fors and againsts of motorised two wheeled transport in an urban environment?
Plus points might include:
- Cheap to buy and run
- Good fuel economy
- Easy to park
- Good for the environment
Downsides to consider:
- You’ll get wet
- You’ll kill yourself
Your choice then.