Born To Be Mild...

In New Zealand these new A.C.C. charges that are being "talked about" with regard to motorcycle owners really irritate me!

I've only ever owned or ridden small motorcycles.
In the late-eighties I had access to a Nifty Fifty, a Beluga 80 and then a late '70s Honda Chaly, that actually had a real gear change pedal on it!

I always intended getting onto bigger and better bikes because motorcycle-riding came very naturally to me and, as everyone who has ridden them knows, there is nothing quite like that out-doors feeling, the smells of whatever environment you are passing through, the connection with your surroundings - basically just you and the control of your engine and the bare necessities required from you to move.

But I was always somewhere without money or then I was somewhere with enough money to get a bike but not in a place I was intending staying in for long.

In London I nearly bought an Royal Enfield as a good, old-fashioned styled bike (they are still made in India pretty much exactly as they have been since they first went into production.)  I was told that
this was a good bike to start with for someone who wanted to know how to take care of their own machine - which was what I wanted.
The Royal Enfield would require enough hands-on work to educate me in the initial needs and requirements of these most demanding and
temperamental of mechanical pets.
However, I kept shifting around the world and, all too soon, I was over forty and much more aware of what physical damage could mean to my career, my family or my loved ones.

I guess that you generally have to be young enough when you start riding to actually enjoy the exhilarating tension that comes from constantly having to watch out for whatever the next idiot car-driver was going to try to do to smear you and your machine all over the road...

And that brings me to my point:
One of the latest in the growing threats from the National Government (towards those who are unable to afford much more in the way of extra costs in their lives) is being justified by the country's apparent
expense in having to pay for all the injured motorcyclists every year versus the small amount of A.C.C. funds budgeted in that direction.
But the question that I am not hearing being asked is this: "How many of these accidents are actually being caused by the stupidity of some motor-car drivers in the first place?"

And, therefore: Would it not be more fair for all motor-vehicle users to have to contribute to this A.C.C. debit - which is, somehow, very dubiously accounted for like some shady insurance policy!
Once this has been much more clearly analysed we may all be in a better position to find those truly responsible for the carnage and the costs.

Bike riders, by necessity for their very survival, have to learn to be much more aware of what is happening around them on the road. Automobile drivers can hurtle around surrounded by a false metal shell of safety; they don't perceive a motorbike as a real threat to their own safety so, subconsciously, they often don't tend to react as quickly in an emergency situation because they know it is the cyclist who will be in the greater danger.

As a motor-vehicle driver I would much rather pay a little more per year for my registration if it means the survival of one more of those aspects of human existence, in this case the riding of motorbikes, which are slowly being taken away from us because some
persons regard them as "too dangerous".

I wrote a song once about the playground structures that were called "witch's hats" and which were removed because too many children were being injured while using them. Even though it was shown how easily a web of chain (like a spider-web) could almost entirely eliminate the dangers for children playing on witch's hats there were still too many people who felt that they had to make the world a safer place - by taking away one more of those wonderful childhood thrills.

And look at what has happened to Guy Fawkes! Each year it becomes more pathetic, more of a safety-conscious event watched by families from a distance.

But the issue, to me, was never the danger of the fireworks - it has always been the danger of not stimulating minds when they are still young and ready to learn - so that they don't grow up slow, ugly,
violent and unimaginative. Because the perception of danger requires IMAGINATION!

I believe that nearly all of the problems in New Zealand these days can be traced back to a growing general apathy towards education - if not an outright antagonism!
Education is not about having your head filled with useless information. It is about getting your mind excited by learning - exercising it like a muscle, so that life can become a continually fascinating journey of discovery.

But sadly many New Zealanders are fast becoming the most simple people on the planet - of those, anyway, who have access to education and books and documentaries and quality music and drama etc and,
therefore, have no excuse to be so unenlightened.

And, usually, we are also still able to meet those from our own land who have achieved great things so that we can learn from them and maybe be inspired by them. Most of our celebrities are not yet locked
away from the public as are many of the "stars" in the rest of the Western world.

There are those who would stop people climbing mountains because of the cost to the community when some of them need rescuing. These people would also do away with motorbikes and many other elements of our lives which add a little challenge and danger - and it would leave us all in a very safe, very dull world.

Martin Phillipps,
November, 2009.

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