I have been asked if the standard of motorcycling in Colombia has improved since I retired from this mode of transport four years ago.Some think I am mad to start again!
The simple answer is no… The Government is starting to take action to improve the situation, they are in the process of introducing new laws to regulate helmets, they will either have to be DOT or the Colombian equivalent approved.
However, I do not see that it will make a lot of difference to the death rate, as there are many who ride without helmets, and the Authorities stand and watch them, instead of doing something about it, so changing the law on helmet sales will have little effect.
Also the majority of people who use a motorbike, do not wear protective clothing, preferring T-shirts and shorts, or jeans, wearing their helmet with the strap undone. Even a slow speed crash in those circumstances could cause serious injury. Yes, I can sympathise with those people, because I won\’t travel without full protection, when I stop, I feel as if I am sitting in a sauna, but I rather know I have a chance of surviving, than ending up in a morgue, therefore I will tolerate the discomfort, knowing that I have done everything I can to ensure my own safety.
I refer to people who use motorbikes, rather than motorcyclists, because for many here it is just a cheap form of transport, they do not maintain their bikes, and many are illegal, when there are Police Road Checks, you see them filling the back of lorries with seized bikes, that have no documents.
These people have little training before being issued with a license, which they think gives them priority on the road. Don\’t get me wrong, there are responsible motorcyclists, but they are few in number.
Here in Colombia, like many countries, we either have one two or three lanes, going in each direction, with a few exceptions, where there can be up to six, and yet people on motorbikes believe they have the god given right to form multiple lanes of their choosing, and that car drivers should accept that, or receive abuse for not giving way to these selfish riders.
Why is there this problem? It comes down to education, the courses to pass the riding test should be more intense and harder to pass, again much of the problem comes down to cost, because wages are so low, people do not have the money available, but then you have to ask, if they should be on the road at all. These people really have no idea how to ride a motorbike, I am not sure if there is even a book published with the highway code, I have never seen one for sale.
Much of the criticism also applies to other vehicle drivers, but because to the high number of motorcycle riders and the fatalities associated with that, it is more noticeable amongst them.
I enjoy riding on the country roads, but when in towns and cities, you really do take your life in your hands. The high death rate amongst motorcycle riders is the fault of the riders, or the Authorities? In my opinion, it is the fault of the Authorities, the laws are not enforced, training is poor, and Riders are not trained to ride defensively, as you will see if you use the Colombian roads.