Aug 23 2008

Put your own house in order

Category: Generalfootlight @ 11:29

Why is it that people are generally so selfish? Always me, me, me! Wanting to be first in the line for everything; last if it’s something nasty, like an injection. Looking for the easy buck, the least work for the most gain. Just – selfish. But selfishness has many guises, not just emotional ones.

Take the person who drives down the road with his/her (although usually men) car hi-fi at full pelt, all windows open. Better yet, no windows open and still loud enough to deafen the populace in the next town. My only consolation is that he or she will be deaf long before I am. It is highly anti-social to have your car radio/stereo blaring out, but it is very hard to regulate. Try telling one of these yobs they are disturbing the entire county and the most likely response would be a stream of good old Anglo-Saxon invective. If you are really unlucky, you might get a physical response, but only if you are stupid enough to stand too close.

Then there’s the noisy neighbours. I doubt there is one person in the country who hasn’t been affected by this problem at least once. Parties that regularly go on until the wee small hours with excruciatingly loud music and people shouting at the tops of their voices to be heard over it. One of our neighbours last summer even moved the hi-fi into the garden – why!?

Intrusive music, like an MP3 player, has been dealt with on public transport in the UK and it is a recognised offence, but where does this lack of courtesy come from? Why are people so selfish and thoughtless?

I blame the parents (or whoever brings them up). No, really – I do! I am one who had a very difficult child who was damned hard work, so I speak from a position of knowledge. It doesn’t matter how much legislation the government puts in place, how many prosecutions there are over noise pollution, how many times people complain to the local Environmental Health Department. The vast number of these people have not had any guidance on how to behave in society. There is a current advertisment in the media pointing out that small children will copy grown-ups into bad habits, in this case road sense. They will also copy good habits. If a child learns at his parents’ knee that it is bad to make so much noise that you disturb other people, and this is constantly reinforced as said child grows, then he probably won’t do it! If he is reprimanded if he makes faces, or hits, or snatches, or shouts abuse, then he probably won’t do it as an adult. Of course children have to do some of their own growing and make their own mistakes and of course some will grow up unpleasant in spite of all the attempts by their parents to produce a well-balanced adult but, if they have no positive role model in the first place, they don’t stand a chance.

And don’t blame the schools! They are in loco parentis – ‘in the place of the parent’ – but they don’t stand a chance either if the groundwork hasn’t been done.

Bringing up kids is bloody hard work. They aren’t there to finish the tally – house, car, kids – nor are they there to cement a failing relationship. If you have kids it should be because you want them and it is then your duty, to your children and to society, to show them how to be good people. I don’t mean in the religious sense – that sometimes produces the worst offenders – but just good, old-fashioned common decency.

So it isn’t just the products of this lack of guidance who are selfish, it’s the place they come from – the parents and, for ‘parents’ read also ‘home’. Many children are effectively brought up by grandparents, childminders, friends. It can’t be helped in an age when it is almost impossible for a mother or father not to have to work to support the family. But that doesn’t change anything. A good start is a good start and it would make a world-wide difference if more people thought about that instead of their own comfort.

I repeat – bringing up kids is bloody hard work! When you complain about the noisy driver or the gang of teenagers you are afraid to walk past, check for a moment whether one of them couldn’t be yours. If not, pat yourself on the back. If they could ….

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Aug 01 2008

Reality Bites

Category: GeneralDave @ 20:40

The title of this article wasn’t my idea. I wrote a letter, late one evening in a fit of pique, to the BMF (British Motorcycling Federation) magazine, “Rider”. Much to my amazement, they published it virtually unchanged. It was a long letter & took up about 2/3 of a page. I didn’t think they’d publish it as it is just a bit contentious… many motorcyclists think they have a god-given right to do exactly as they please on the roads and to hell with everybody else. Anyway, the title was their’s and I use it here because it fits. Slightly modified, this is it:

I’ve recently seen a lot of letters in the motorcycling press about how “green” motorcycling is. However, a lot of the credibility of such arguments disappears when you don’t get your facts straight. The major ones I’d take issue with are fuel consumption and noise.

Let’s start with the easier one: fuel consumption. Small scooters and low capacity bikes do indeed manage excellent consumption figures. 100 mpg is not unusual. However, once you get to bigger engines, the picture changes dramatically. My old NTV 600 managed 45 mpg easily, 50 – 55 on a run. But my current ride – a VFR 800 – does 44 on a good day and 30 – 35 around town.

For comparison, my brother-in-law has a small diesel-powered people mover which can carry 5 people and a fair bit of luggage and regularly returns 50 to the gallon; My sister has a petrol-powered Punto; she’s never reset the MPG on the computer so it’s showing the average consumption over the four years she’s had the car: 50 mpg!

My point is that bigger bikes are no better – and in many cases worse – than a small/medium car.

Now for noise. OK, so loud pipe save lives, the mantra goes. However, that doesn’t give anyone the right to drive through urban streets disturbing thousands (yes, thousands) of people of an evening. Just think about it: riding from, say the centre of London to Croydon and using the bike the way some (many?) people do, the noise of your bike will be heard by several thousand people, including those living behind double-glazed windows, and will annoy a fair proportion of them (and no, I don’t know the figure).

The problem is that it’s not just your bike: it’s a lot of them, going past over a period of a couple of hours. It can be bloody annoying – I know it annoys me sometimes and I ride a bike which can be fairly noisy. As a rule, I will deliberately keep the noise down in urban areas, certainly in the evenings. My view is this: if you want to ride, you have to accept the dangers; you can’t minimise them at any cost to the rest of the community. It’s your choice: if you can’t stand the risk, don’t ride.

While I’m switching hobby-horses, here’s another one: Visibility.

Who the hell thought camouflage-patterned protective clothing for bikes etc was a good idea? So you’re riding along on your bike (which has a patchwork of colours all over it ‘cos it’s a race replica) and you’re wearing a bike suit which has a camouflage pattern in shades of grey all over it. Some idiot doesn’t see you & knocks you off & comes out with the immortal line “Sorry mate, didn’t see you”.


Guess what camouflage patterns are meant to do: HIDE YOU!!

The twat who thought this one up should be charged with the murder of all those bikers killed as a direct result. Yes, the buyer has responsibility as well – they bought it – but I can’t imagine the manufacturer didn’t realise what they were doing.

But it doesn’t stop there: Black trousers and a black jacket actually aren’t too bad during the day because it’s a nice big block of solid colour (or absence of colour 🙂 that’s more visible than something broken up into random patches. At night it’s a bloody stealth suit and wearing it ‘cos it matches your black bike… again your choice: look cool or make sure other road users can see you. They mostly don’t go together. It’s not impossible, just not to everyone’s taste.

Just to make it clear: ergonomically a bike which is as far as possible one solid colour will be more noticeable to other road users than one which has, effectively, random patches of colour all over it.

I use my bikes for work: visiting clients. I rarely get the chance to do anything else with them. Nevertheless, I’ll admit it: I love speed, I love being on the bike and enjoy the more “interesting” moments when I can. But there has to be a balance. The days when you can go out & do almost what you want on a sports bike are pretty much over and will soon be gone completely.

Today’s sports bikes are dinosaurs which I suspect will be extinct within 50 or 60 years. Biofuel? Forget it – the case for biofuel is looking shakier every week. Whilst a hydrogen-powered car is a possibility, a hydrogen-powered bike isn’t! Battery technology is improving all the time & there may come a time when a rechargeable electric sports bike becomes a reality.

And then again, there may not.

Enjoy biking whilst you can but respecting the rest of society, not abusing it.

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