6.28.2007,12:14 PM
Good bikers, bad bikers: it's up to each of us
Recent discussion on several forums and blogs address how we as motorcycle riders behave on the road and how the public (riding and non-riding) perceive us. Below were categories ascribed to riders on one forum [1] where I participate. Although these were in the context of how non-riders perceive riders, it can also apply to how riders view riders.
  • Ambassador – I'm out there winning hearts and minds of non-riding motorists.
  • Influencer – My actions can impact the was cyclists are viewed, and I put this in practice.
  • Doubter – It probably doesn't have an effect, but I try to keep it in mind.
  • Cynic – I'm not able to change anyones impression, even if I wanted to.
  • Isolationist – I ride for me and my riding buddies.
Bad apples exist in every barrel. Bad cagers, bad riders, bad pedestrians, bad kitty.........
But ranting and raving against each other without any actual participation, even by demonstration of exemplary good behaviour on the road, is another apple with blemishes that will soon rot.

So rather than rant incessantly, or throw up your boots and quit riding, try taking a pro-activist stance by participating. Which can be as simple as waving cagers through an intersection before you, not tailgating, putting collective peer pressure on those riders/bikers who do foolish, stupid and dangerous behaviour. And it only raises blood pressure (and for nothing).

Motorcyclists are like any other sub-culture group: individuals that make up a general group of many. Public perceptions are based on both, depending on their exposure. If all they see is what's reported in the news (aka accidents, deaths, stupidity), or see squids doing wheelies and speeding in and out of lanes, that forms their perception and they pass judgment based on that.

Stereotypes exist for a reason.

The sum behaviour of individuals is what represents the group. If more riders behave responsibly and with courtesy, it will be more visible and serve to counter the opposite behaviour. Unfortunately, human psychology remembers negative events/behaviour more than the positive. So we have a daunting task to perform.

Apathetic riders only serve the negative by virtue of not being a member of the positive riders. There is no in between.

So, like in any group in our society, we are participants if we choose to ride, like it or not. And we can choose to be a 'negative' or a 'positive'.

In this case, and in general, not choosing = a negative. Why? Because the negative is too visible and obvious in the media and by memetics (aka the 'grapevine', or word of mouth). If we don't participate, we relinquish our impact on the general public to those that shout the loudest: those riders that portray motorcyclists as what the public now expects us to be: irresponsible, dangerous, 'outlaws', speed demons, etc. That's the stereotype (thank you Hollywood and Hell's Angels).

There is movement away from that stereotype in the last decade or so. Let's ride smartly, responsibly and with courtesy, and our collective behaviour will demonstrate that we aren't all bad after all.

[1] Two Wheeled Texans.


posted by Macrobe
Permalink ¤