Beep Beep…..

A number of things pushed me on to write this blog this morning, but most probably it involves the young guy I nearly ran down with my car today. Granted it was still around 7am, and quite dark too, but that is no excuse…or is it?

This particular young man, after hollering outside my car windscreen, jumped back on his bicycle-converted-to-motorcycle contraption, and spluttered off, leaving me and a goodly number of onlookers gaping at him.

Looking at his receding back, I could see that he had no lights, no fluorescent vest, and worst of all, a black jacket. Ah. That is why I didn’t see him then. The fact that he had no safety helmet on, I think, did not occur to him at all.

So, in a roundabout way, I am coming to the point of what I want to say. The government says there are way too many cars on the road. And I agree. So that is why we are seeing a proliferation of these death-traps on the road.

Buy a cheap bicycle, import an engine from ebay for a mere hundred euros, bolt it on the frame…and there you go. A registration fee of five malta liri, and you’re good to go!

What the heck is wrong with this country? I have a little 50cc Gilera motorbike for which I have to pay MY drivers license and the bike’s road-tax and insurance. Not to mention the dreaded VRT.

How can this be?

Let’s compare the two items in question. Both machines have 2 wheels. Both have a frame, and a saddle, and err…brakes….but wait, wait.

Let’s REALLY compare them.

The converted bicycle has two thin tyres very prone to bursting at high speeds, as well as a thin uncomfortable saddle bolted onto a narrow aluminium frame that is not meant to handle high speeds. Braking, as one can imagine, is an absolute joke. Try stopping a bicycle going at seventy kilometres an hour on two little rubber blocks! Safety is nothing short of hilarious. These drivers are not asked to wear a helmet. Or God forbid, have front and rear lights.

On the other hand my little Gilera has two thick high-speed capable tyres, a comfortably padded seat with storage space beneath it. The frame is welded in a number of places to ensure safety. Powerful shock absorbers amortize the disc-braking system and a nice little windscreen deflects the wind comfortably away from my helmet-protected head. Powerful lights at the front and back make a good job of advising other commuters on the road that a motorbike is approaching.

So, really, there is no comparison is there? My bike is far more safe on the road…both to me and to others.

So can anyone tell me why the heck I have to fork out ALL that money to keep what is essentially a bicycle with wheels on the road? While the other guy pays nothing for using the same road, albeit with dangerous equipment.

I sincerely propose that for motorcycles up to 100 cubic centimetres, one simply pays a one-time registration tax…and that’s it.

I can guarantee that up to a fifth of cars will disappear from the Maltese roads, especially in spring and summer. And why not. Mopeds are easy to drive and cheap to run. They use clean, efficient, unleaded fuel, cause less hassle on the road and are a doddle to park. Buying a moped doesn’t necessitate breaking the bank with a loan. Being fun to drive is an added bonus.

So if the government really wants to do something (which I doubt), my advice would be to liberalise the sub-100cc motorcycle market.

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