September 7, 2003
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The young have a way of believing themselves invincible. Every youthful generation does. When they eventually find out that this is a fallacy, they have either grown older and maybe wiser, or they have become the victims of their own illusion. The newest cohort of invincibles can be seen - and heard - roaring their way along the capitalís narrow streets, often with a girl riding pillion, perched in the air like a look-out manning a turret.
These afficionados of the CBR, whose engine has a rasp which makes a Harley-Davidson sound like a kittenís purr, have cultivated an image of being part of an exclusive club. From their Tommy Hilfiger gear, to their insouciant air, to their safety helmets swinging carelessly from their machines, to their obsession with speed and noise, to their lack of sensitivity to other road users - all bespeak membership of a kind of cult.
Even for the most staid among us, it is easy enough to understand the attraction that a CBR would have for the tearaways of the society; it is simply raw power packed into a machine so manoeuverable, that it must almost seem like an extension of the rider. And of course, the danger inherent in speeding along the highways and byways, will give the experience an edge which is addictive.
There is nothing wrong with owning a CBR. There is nothing wrong with cultivating an image in connection with it. In some circumstances there might be nothing wrong with flirting with danger. However, those who want to take risks, should do so in an environment which is specifically designed for it. And the countryís public roads are not designed for it. It is not so much that the riders are taking risks with their own safety, it is that they are putting innocent people who have no interest in thrills, or speed, or danger, at even greater risk than themselves.
The traffic laws are designed to ensure a measure of order and safety on the nationís roads. However, of recent years the Traffic Department has not earned a reputation for rigorous enforcement of the rules - or at least, not the ones that matter most. Even with vehicles boasting four wheels, speeding has come to be a growing problem, and it seems that law enforcement has not yet hit on a formula to adequately address the issue. And now we have the even more dangerous CBRs entering on to the scene.
Following two recent accidents involving these big bikes, the police issued a press release on the subject of riders not wearing their helmets. Their admonitions are in order. However, as suggested above, more important is the fact that a bike with a top speed of 160 mph, and an acceleration rate of a racing machine, represents a threat to the lives of ordinary law-abiding members of the public, and not just the rider, when it is ridden at speed on the public roads. In a matter of two days last week, both Mr Raymond Panday and Mr Laurice Eastman, the first a father of three, and the second a father of six, and both hard-working citizens, were killed by CBRs.
As more of these bikes come into the country, and as the traffic laws continue to be honoured in the breach, then the likelihood increases that more innocent people will die in accidents involving them. The Traffic Department needs to sit down and come up with a viable strategy to address the issue, which will undoubtedly present them with more of a headache than speeding cars do. Such a strategy may have to encompass not just a practical means of enforcing the law, but maybe an education campaign for CBR owners. Perhaps too, there should be opportunities for riders to roar around the Timehri track, where they may still be a danger - but at least to no one but themselves.