My head-on crash saved my life

About six or seven years ago I was riding my scooter down the highway and had a collision with a car. The driver tried to cross the dual carriageway without checking to his right first. It was not quite a head on, but my scooter was firmly wedged under his front wheel and I was thrown through the air, clipping the top corner of his windscreen and tumbled through the air and bounced down the road.

I won’t say it was graceful, it was probably more pathetic in terms of its gymnastic qualities, but all in all, I finished up with a beaten up knee some sore ribs and a bit of mental bruising. When you are beetling down the highway at the allowed speed, you just don’t expect to have a car on the left of the road, pull out straight across you.

A hospital visit and a few months of physio and my body was set to healing, but my mind was struggling. With my leg in a brace I could not ride so I became a passenger in my bride’s car. I feared every parked car and every merging vehicle, particularly those that may not have followed the prescribed best practice for merging. I quickly became a screecher as I loudly abused drivers to the left and right at every intersection. At my bride’s behest I got some counselling.

At the end of the first visit with the counsellor we had pretty much dealt with the stupid driver and the accident and then for the next five weeks we set about putting the rest of the world to rights. My family, my workmates, my history, the whole bag of cats I had whirling around in my head. It was the most relieving process. The expression “a weight off my shoulders” has never been more solidly true.

It took several more months of thoughtful consideration before I can truly say that I had most of my demons sorted, but it was only six visits to the counsellor. I would not hesitate to steer people down that path for help. For me, that nasty road accident gave me the opportunity to alter the path of my life.

10 things you learn being a scooter rider

I am a scooter rider, albeit a big scooter, a 500cc beast that most car drivers think is a big touring motorcycle. I am also fortunate enough to live in an inner city suburb of beautiful Sydney, and ride my scooter throughout the state in the course of my job, but most often to and from the office in the heart of town. This is the third scooter I have owned and it has just clicked over 100,000 kms which is a lot of time spent on two wheels.

Scooter riders are so fortunate to be able to enjoy our commute to the office when for most travellers it is drudgery or even a necessary evil. However to stay alive, we need to be able to maintain focus, be quick learners and flexible thinkers, so it’s not for everyone. If scooter riders fade off and fail to maintain focus on the task at hand, even for a few seconds, we don’t stay scooter riders for very long.

Here are a few other lessons I have learned that resonate through everything I do

Lesson 1. Most people, most of the time, are doing the very best they can with the tools they have at their disposal. You can yell at them or curse at them or shake your fist or your head as much as you want, that wont help and they will never improve. Most of them think they are pretty good drivers, and the occasional lapse in concentration that has them swerve across lanes or fail to indicate, is no true indication of their ability. Like it or not there is a wide bandwidth of capabilities on the road at any one time.

Lesson 2. Some people are on drugs. That may be something recreational like a bit of weed, or something a bit more serious like steroids that will cause them to take outrageous risks and drive very aggressively. Action and consequence is not something that computes with them, better to just stay out of their way.

Lesson 3. No-one wants to get involved in an accident, but some people simply don’t understand how dangerous their actions are and how close they come to causing a problem. You don’t know what you don’t know. The guy on the scooter almost always finishes off the worst for wear.

Lesson 4. It’s not how you get into the shit that matters, it is how you get out of it, so you need to make sure you have a way out of it. Don’t put yourself or your scooter in a position where there is no way out.

Lesson 5, Even if it isn’t your fault, you are partly to blame. If you were not there in the first place it would not have happened (see lesson 4)

Lesson 6. There is no intelligence test to drive (or parent for that matter) Closely related to lesson 1. But a good reminder.

Lesson 7. Life is full of little beautiful moments, suck them up, live them, make the most of every single one of them.

Lesson 8. You will die. But then everyone else will too. The trick is not to die while riding. Two wheels are inherently less safe than four. Just because its more fun doesn’t mean you can sit and relax, you need to stay focussed.

Lesson 9. Car drivers (or at least many of them) genuinely believe that bikes should not be on the road. The roads belong to cars, therefore they are doing you a favour just letting you share it with them.

Lesson 10. It’s really nice to be right, it’s better to be alive.

Once upon a time I would get really really upset about the injustice of bad luck or circumstance. Scooter riding has taught me a lot about rolling with the punches, being pragmatic, separating function from emotion. It may not be for everyone, but I love every minute of it.