March 6, 2012

Motorbikes give more than just joyrides (3 PICS)

Motorbikes are also economically efficient. It is also faster, more convenient and often more comfortable, especially during "crush" hours.

The discussion in recent decades about personal transport and its impact on the environment (both man-made and natural) has sent all and sundry into a tizzy.

Policymakers in Singapore have swung into action with a slew of measures, ranging from discouraging car ownership and promoting public transport, to doling out tax breaks for "green" cars that remain largely inaccessible to the masses.

Eagerly going green, too, are the vehicle manufacturers, who have embarked on a race to create eco-cars that are increasingly complex or ridiculously compact - sometimes both complicated and emaciated.

Amid the noise and confusion, nary a word has been uttered about motorcycles and scooters, which is a shame, as they play a bigger role in the mobility matrix than they are given credit for.

First of all, motorcycles are efficient, in more ways than one. They can carry two people (the average number of occupants in a passenger car) while occupying less road space. The Land Transport Authority has determined one motorcycle to be 0.5 passenger-car unit, but jurisdictions elsewhere have assigned as small a number as 0.24. When parked, motorcycles occupy even less space.

Do you have to be a mod 20- or 30-something with a full head of hair to appreciate the Monster 696? Our test rider, who is neither, says no!
Being smaller and much lighter than cars, motorbikes are far less energy-intensive.

They are also less pollutive. Carbon calculators estimate that a bike of between 125cc and 500cc and clocking 20,000km a year (the average for a car in Singapore) would emit between 2 and 2.45 tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared to the 3.2 tonnes from a mid-sized petrol-electric hybrid car like a Toyota Prius.

Motorbikes are also economically efficient. Varying insurance premiums aside, owning and operating a mass-market bike costs less than taking public transport. It is also faster, more convenient and often more comfortable, especially during "crush" hours.

From a traffic-engineering point of view, motorcycles can help create a more optimal flow of traffic. Because of their size, superior acceleration and manoeuvrability, bikes can be packed more densely on a stretch of tarmac than other motorised vehicles. Their accelerative power allows them to clear traffic junctions faster, too.

In style and performance, the Monster 696 does exactly what it needs to do, give owners a beautiful machine that is also capable out on the weekend joy rides.
Studies have shown that when a few motorcycles are waiting for the lights to change at a traffic junction, car drivers incur less "start-up lost time" when red turns to green. This is because motorcyclists are often more alert to changes in traffic signals, which in turn prompts drivers who are first in line to react faster.

As for safety, there is really nothing we cannot improve with proper training and discipline (for riders as well as drivers). One suggestion is to increase the liability weighting on vehicle users who are involved in accidents with two-wheelers. Also, with three-wheeled scooters and motorbikes on the market today, anyone can ride one.

There is only one major downside to riding in a place like Singapore: the wet weather. There is, of course, rain-proof gear available.

Given its obvious advantages, it is strange that riding is not incentivised or promoted as a viable transport mode here. But those who ride as a matter of choice already have the biggest incentive: fun. In fact, riding the average motorbike is often more exhilarating than driving an expensive sports car.

Even when it is pouring.

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