Melbourne’s motorcycle commuters
They offer fun, freedom and an easier commute, so why aren’t more people riding motorbikes in Melbourne?
It seems like a no-brainer. Why sit in the ‘car parks’ that are Melbourne’s freeways and arterial roads in peak hour, when you could ditch that stationary car for a motorbike and beat the queues?
Many Asian cities flow with a river of motorbikes and you can’t help but think that Melbourne, with its wide and mostly flat streets and clear road rules and traffic lights, could be a scooter and bike city, instead of one dominated by cars.
But according to figures from the Victorian Motorcycle Council, only 0.5 per cent of peak-hour traffic on the Bolte Bridge is two-wheeled.
Motorcycles are cheap to run and offer a freedom you won’t find with four wheels or public transport.
Anaesthetist Jennifer Reilly moved to Melbourne from Newcastle last year and realised her daily orbit was mostly going to be inner-city. So she bought herself a Vespa and now parks right outside the Alfred Hospital’s front door.
“It was the fun factor really,” Jennifer says. “The smile factor. It had to be a Vespa, and it had to be black. Everything I do, I can do on a bike but in a fraction of the time and in an unplanned manner.”
Jacinta Siracusa has been riding for 15 years and has turned her love of motorbikes into a popular Instagram persona, @moto_doll. She has more than 35,000 followers, but that’s not why she rides. “It is like a fire within me,” she says. “I need to do it and it starts to affect me if I haven’t been for a ride for a while. It clears my mind. When I ride I’m not worrying about anything but the road.”
Jeremy Walton had no real interest in motorbikes and had caught the train into the city for work for most of his professional life. Then he took a job in Wantirna, met a few colleagues who rode, and decided to give it a try. At the age of 45, he bought his first motorbike and now, a few years later, is secretary of the Victorian Motorcycle Council.
It's an enthusiasm that is catching on. VicRoads statistics reveal that as of 6 July 2018, there were 194,824 motorcycles registered in Victoria; a 51 per cent increase in registrations since 2006. Research conducted on behalf of the RACV suggests that most commuters ride less than 20 kilometres to and from their work and that fun (45 per cent) and freedom (14 per cent) are the main reasons people ride, well ahead even of avoiding traffic/congestion (seven per cent) and ease of getting around (six per cent).
The RACV research, conducted by Starburst Insights, also suggests that motorcycle riders value the social aspect of being a rider, while scooter riders love the cheap maintenance, low fuel costs and the ability to park anywhere there’s a footpath.
And yet, despite the increase in interest in motorbikes, most of us have not bought into the movement. Is it fear? Motorcyclists surveyed for the RACV cited poor car-driver awareness, distracted drivers on mobile phones, lack of respect from cars, poor road quality, tram tracks and bad weather as key issues facing those on two wheels.
RACV mobility advocacy manager Dave Jones says it is “vital for all drivers on the road, no matter their vehicle, to remember the need for mutual care, because everybody is somebody’s husband, or sister, or child”.