Think Bike. How often do you see that on a sign, see it on a bumper sticker, on a motorway matrix display? Think Bike, Think Biker is supposedly the message. I've got a better idea, an alternative idea. As well as Think Bike, how about Bike Think? Bike Think, Biker Think. Driving along at around 80 m.p.h. (allegedly) the other day, I noticed a motorcycle looming large in my rear view mirror. As I was overtaking another car, I couldn't really move in, and I didn't want to go faster, so I carried on. He came closer and closer. When I did pull in once clear, the biker pulled alongside, slowed down to exactly my speed, turned his head and gave me a long (and albeit under his shiny visor, hard) look. Yep, he wasn't looking ahead at the road, he was looking at me. Clever. Whatever his point was, he considered it made, and then accelerated to 100 plus and zoomed off into the distance. Tell you what, it's a good thing I'm looking out for bikers.
By far the majority* of them appear to be complete cretins with no regard for their own safety or that of others. Rules of the road and basic intelligence appear not to be for them, they're just out to have a good time and burn rubber. How many times do you see a biker zipping in and out of traffic, slalom-style, in order to make a bit of ground. Gliding through the slenderest of gaps, causing mild panic in drivers who were unaware of the bike undertaking them suddenly before weaving in front and then going outside the next one. I'm sure it must be very exciting, invigorating even, but when you're wearing a pair of jeans and a fleece it seems ever so slightly foolhardy. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I rarely see a sensible motorcyclist, one that doesn't attempt dodgy manoeuvres, one that rides at speeds suitable for the conditions at hand. Most of them appear to have death wish, but I'm supposed to be concerned for their safety and look out for them. Sounds fair to me, and even though it clearly isn't fair, I do it nonetheless. I'm nice like that.
The same can said about cyclists, especially in London. Red lights simply don't apply. There is huge and real concern about cyclists getting crushed by lorries turning left that either don't see them or don't look, and whilst I wouldn't wish it on anyone, cyclists could do so much more to help themselves. Like bikers, most* of them appear to be utter imbeciles with barely a shred of self-preservation. In and out of traffic, straight through red lights, undercutting, up onto the pavement, through pedestrians crossing on the green man, nothing ever surprises me. I once whacked a guy with my newspaper who cut straight though a pile of people - including nearly missing me - crossing entirely legitimately across the Hammersmith gyratory on their way to a gig at the Apollo. He nearly stopped and killed me despite being 100% in the wrong and ignoring the traffic light. You have to wonder what these people are on? Apparently if you ride a bicycle or a motorbike, you can do whatever you like and everyone else has to be extra careful not to hit you. Amazing. I'm not advocating deliberately knocking over cyclists who ignore signs, lights, one-way streets and so on, but at the same time what exactly is wrong with these people? Why do they feel that what applies to other road users just doesn't apply to them? I would never drive through a red light (amber, fair game....) yet those on two wheels are able to somehow completely ignore the colour of the light and carry on. I'm probably on very shaky and insensitive ground here, but if they weren't dead they'd probably complain that the driver should have seen them and swerved.
Obviously all road users, especially those in charge of large lumps of metal, should be massively alert to all possibilities, but if you're on a bike or a motorcycle and think that traffic signals (and common sense) don't apply to you, think again. Biker Think.
* it could of course be that I only notice the flagrant cyclists and motorcyclists that cause me to nearly have heart-attacks on a daily basis whilst driving in London, and that the silent and law-abiding majority pass under my radar completely, but my point is that it isn't just one or two who are riding really really badly, it's loads and loads.