The Advantages of Two Wheels

Milin.jpgABOVE: Milin and his Kawasaki. PHOTO BY GRANT J EVERETT

Tired of public transport? Perhaps a two-wheeled option might be for you. Peter Farrugia, Flourish Australia’s Peer Work Manger, and Milin Thaker, Accounts Payable Officer, discussed the pros and cons of motorbikes and scooters.

Peter: Living in the CBD, parking is at a premium, so I invested in a scooter. They’re also easy to maintain and cheap to run. I don’t ride too far nowadays, mostly just local errands, so I didn’t feel the complexity of a motorcycle was necessary. A scooter meets the brief.

Milin: I have a Kawasaki motorbike, though I only really use it to get to and from work. Riding a bike is convenient and timesaving. Plus, when I go out riding, I often see a lot of empty motorbike-only parking spaces. That’s really convenient.

Peter: I’ve used my scooter to get to work, though not so much these days. I do a lot of walking and public transport is fairly good in the City, so the scooter is an enjoyable way of covering distances that are too far to cross on foot.

The drawbacks of two wheels

Milin: Carrying things is a big drawback. If I’m going shopping or I need to transport anything, I’ll use my car.

Peter: There are also real safety issues to consider. People on scooters and motorbikes will often become invisible to other road users, easily disappearing from mirrors and vision. I’m always actively aware of everyone on the road, and you need to be able to anticipate issues that may arise right in front of you at 80 or 100 kilometres an hour. There are defensive driving courses for young drivers that can teach you all this. The tests you have to sit to get your license are also a really good introduction to riding on public streets without the protection of a car. They’re an opportunity to develop confidence and awareness.

“Confidence is just as important as skill, because if you aren’t confident, you can’t be as defensive and proactive as you need to be” – Peter Farrugia

Milin: You have to be able to keep track of cars changing lanes, because if they don’t check their blind spot you could be risking an accident. It’s an even bigger issue with trucks, and you need to keep your distance from them and be very, very careful if you overtake them. 

Rules and regulations

Peter: For scooters and motorbikes you need a Rider’s License, and you need to display your Ls or Ps like you would on a car. To get them, you need to do a couple of half-day instructor courses. These are conducted in dedicated lots, off public roads, and as a group with an instructor-rider directing everyone: “We’re going three blocks, turning left at Red Rooster, then when we come to the park, I want you to pull up on the left, then a new leader will take charge.” If you see 6 or 8 riders in fluoro vests, that’s probably what they’re doing.

Milin: You can only ride on your Ls for around 3 months before you need to get your P-Plates, then you go from Red Ps to Green Ps and on to your Full License. One advantage to riding a bike is you don’t need somebody with a full license to be with you during your Ls. If you’ve held a license overseas, you may be eligible to automatically get it here without the whole learner’s process.

Peter: By law, you must wear a helmet on a scooter, but it’s common sense to wear full riding gear: a padded leather jacket, leather riding pants, fully enclosed footwear, and gloves. You must prepare for the worst-case scenario of being thrown at speed and sliding along a gravel road, perhaps even crashing into oncoming traffic.

Milin: What you are wearing will have a very big impact on how serious an accident or a crash will be. It can save your life. So it’s best to be all covered. The only drawback is you’ll be hot in Summer, but you’ll be warm in Winter.

Peter: Remember that the weather is more of a factor on two wheels, as having rain pelting against your visor can severely affect your visibility.

Milin: Another big issue is strong wind, as it can upset your balance.

Peter: Some drivers don’t like bikes and scooters filtering though traffic, and may actively block you from doing that. I also think scooters get less respect than bikes. I’ve been riding on the street, observing the road rules, and drivers get angry with me because I’m not getting out of their way quickly enough, so that can create dangerous situations. I’ve had some close calls, and if I wasn’t so attentive they could have been very dangerous.”

Running costs

Peter: Before you buy a certain kind of transport, ask yourself some questions: where do I want it to take me? What do I want to do? Will I be able to transport things? How much will it cost to maintain?

Milin: Compared to a car, maintaining a motorbike is a lot cheaper. With my car, a service will cost around $450, with the bike it’s around $250. Registration and CDP for a car comes to about $1,000 a year, but for a bike it’s about $400. When I was driving my car to and from work my weekly petrol bill was $50 or $60, but now I can fuel my bike for a month for the same amount. Even compared to riding the train, I find riding a motorbike cheaper. 

Peter: You need to get compulsory third party insurance for any damage or injuries, and you can opt for comprehensive vehicle insurance for more protection.

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