When you invite a child for a ride, a very attentive passenger is now watching, and learning from, your every move.
Okay, it’s a hot day, and I’d rather not be cased in Kevlar and leather, with my head boiling inside a helmet. But as I’m riding out of town, a cruiser rider and his passenger—a boy around 10 years old—pass me. Dad is wearing jeans, boots and a muscle shirt; his son (I presume) is in shorts, sandals and a T-shirt. Both are topped off with a BC Beanie.
Parental responsibility shows up in many ways: we’re supposed to protect and nurture our offspring until they’re mature enough to fend for themselves and make their own decisions. Perhaps the biggest challenge in all that is modeling the behaviour we want to see. Any child psychologist will tell you that kids are watching your behaviour all the time, so they can absorb, interpret and mimic it. “Do what I say, not what I do,” doesn’t work. Kids get most of their ideas about what attitudes and boundaries are socially appropriate from watching and listening to their parents (Is that scary or what?)—at least, until they’re old enough to think critically about what they’ve learned.
One of the areas copycat behaviour seems to show up most distinctly is on the road. Hands up if you thought your dad was the best driver around when you were young. Chances are he was just average—but hands up too if you’re still harbouring some of his habits, actions and responses? For example, when my dad pulled into the passing lane he would use his turn signal—but not when moving back into the driving lane. That makes no sense, but I copied that trait for years until I learned better. I thought my dad was a great mechanic too—until I realized I had to un-learn many of the “skills” I absorbed by watching him working in the garage. Like most dads, he was a tinkerer and just doing the best he could.
So remember when you’re behind the wheel or the handlebar, your young impressionable passenger is absorbing everything you do, from how you control your vehicle to how you react to other road users’ actions. And if your response includes racist or sexist slurs about those other drivers…guess what Junior is picking up.
But if you want to ride your motorcycle without wearing protective gear, that’s fine: it’s your skin. If you want, forego the skid lid in jurisdictions where it’s legal to do so: your head too. Just know that your immature passenger now assumes what you’re wearing (or not) is appropriate motorcycling gear. You may be okay with your own recovery from fractures and road rash from a get-off or a crash—but how would you feel if it was your kid?
One of the dominant catchphrases of the decade so far is “disruptive technology.” (In most cases it’s not the technology that’s inherently disruptive, just the way it’s used. But that’s a whole other topic…) Some say it started in 1999 with Napster; but the pace has picked up in the last few years with the advent of Air BnB, and especially Uber.
Chances are pretty good that even if you haven’t used Uber, you’re at least aware of the ride-hailing service, its growing popularity, and the response it’s drawn from the traditional taxi industry. And while Uber is predictably running into legislative hurdles, it’s also pretty clear that the business model is here to stay. In September 2016, Uber was reported to be the most valuable private corporation in the world! But there’s another disruptive technology currently propagating in Europe that may or may not find its way across the Atlantic.
In Dublin’s fair city (where I was fortunate enough to spend a week this summer), if you want a meal prepared by someone else, you no longer have to go out to eat—you can order your preferred dish from your favourite restaurant and have it delivered to your door. We’re not just talking pizza here: many of the top restaurants in European cities have signed up with Deliveroo, an upstart food delivery service. Deliveroo’s “disruptive technology?” They use motorcycles (as well as bicyles where appropriate) so your food is delivered quickly and efficiently.
Great idea, eh? So why wouldn’t it work here?
One of the reasons Deliveroo (and its competitors Just Eat, GrubHub, and Hungryhouse) can get your food to you fast is because its riders are never stuck in traffic. As in all European cities, scooters and motorcycles can ”filter” through stationary traffic to the front of the line. That way, they’re always first away from traffic signals.
So, in Europe, Deliveroo is a no-brainer: after all, pizza’s been delivered in Europe by lane-splitting mopeds for decades. And while having your Tournedos Rossini and Chateauneuf-du-Pape show up at your door in a trice is a nice-to-have, first-world option, there are other examples where the rapid transport of goods across European cities by motorcycle couriers makes an invaluable contribution to wellbeing. Live organs for transplant, blood and blood products, urgent laboratory samples…all of these are whisked across on a “bike”—the fastest means possible. And if you’re involved in a road accident in London, likely the first responder will be a paramedic—on a motorcycle.
But there’s a systemic disrespect for motorcycling in North American society (not surprising given some of the media associations) that means we’ll never be accorded any “privileges,” even if they make perfect sense. Other forms of transportation always take precedence. Pete Kerklaan wrote in his letter to Canadian Biker (August 2016) about the spreading use of steel cables on Canadian roads intended to stop dozy drivers crossing the median. They may save the life of a careless cager, but they’re likely lethal if a biker hits one.
So don’t expect to find a Deliveroo app on your Canadian phone any time soon.