My social media feed is my primary source of news. This is probably not a good thing, but it’s a thing. My feed has blown up in the past couple of days with the news of a swarm of sport bike riders terrorizing highways in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). The videos shot from a traffic helicopter, shows the large group of riders stopping on major highways to stunt, do burnouts, and generally hoon about.
This raises two questions in my mind; “Why would they do this?” and, “Should they have done this?” The first question is easy to answer. They did this because they aren’t allowed to. There’s a strand of rebellion and anti-sociality that runs through any fringe culture. It’s the same with punks, metalheads, artists, and extreme sportists. These people (and I count myself among them) often will do a thing just because it’s “bad”. If there is something that the man tells you not to do, that becomes the thing that is most important to do. This is an adolescent behaviour but it’s one I completely understand. A big part of the appeal of racing for me, is not only being allowed to, but also being encouraged to whack-open the throttle on a sport bike and go as fast as one dares. It’s not something you’re supposed to do in a polite society. This attitude is a strong motivator for social change, art, and political movements. It can be a positive force when it’s focused on a productive task. Throwing beer bottles into school yards, not so good.
This leads me into the second question; “Should they have done this?” While I totally get it, my answer for this is a resounding and unrelenting, full-caps NO! And here’s why: There is a strong acrimonious relationship between most motorists and most riders. Any discussion among riders will invariably degrade at some point to a derisive critique of “Cagers”, and how dumb and unaware they are. Conversely, when bikers come up amongst non-riders the discussion is generally about some lunatic on a sport bike passed them at insane velocity on the back wheel in flip flops, with a trail of defiled nuns behind them. Let me say it directly; the truth as usual, is somewhere in the middle. Unless we as riders, actively support the negative stereotypes. When riders really do overrun the highway acting like utter buttholes, then we make the tongue-clucking hall monitors exactly correct. And that’s the worst. Let’s not make them correct.
These riders took the time to organize a ride to screw with complete strangers in public. All those folks who were just trying to get from one place to another, but were delayed by these riders, are now a person who has a negative attitude towards all motorcyclists. This means that when legislation comes up to increase motorcycle insurance rates, or to restrict motorcycle types, or whatever other egregious legislative backlash you can think of; it will have stronger support with the broader public. Not only that, but opportunistic politicians now have a ripe and easy topic to grandstand about. You f*****s who did this, just put bullets into the gun that’s already aimed at us all. It’s not cool. You accomplished nothing of value (unless you got some sweet selfies, bro), except making being a motorcyclist a little bit more difficult.
Being a rider comes with a certain social stigma. There’s an association with rebellion and a devil-may-care attitude. Honestly, that’s part of the appeal. And really, it’s okay, because most people kinda like a rebel. No one reads novels about diligent, do-rights. There is a fine line to be walked here. If the broader public sees us as rascals and cads, that’s okay, maybe even a good thing. If the public starts to see us as a legitimate menace, then our rights to ride, and the accessibility to riding is in legitimate jeopardy.
The moto community is small, smaller still in Canada, smaller still in Ontario, and smaller still in southwestern Ontario. Confine that group to sport riders and get a truly tiny clique. I’m sure I know some of you, who participated in this thing. Honestly, what the hell, dude? I thought you liked bikes?