Feb 22, 2007

Wheelie morality?

wheelie silhouetteAs soon as I wrote about that wheelie on Sunday, I thought to myself, 'And there will be someone who won't understand...'

I was right. Someone just posted a comment saying it was irresponsible. Actually, I beg to differ. And not because I am holier than thou, I pull better wheelies or because I do not practice what I preach.

Responsibility to be perfectly pedantic about this comes from the word 'responsible' which is defined as follows. For the sake for brevity and clarity, I am omitting the contextual meanings that do not apply (which is why the numbers are skewed):

re·spon·si·ble (r?-sp?n's?-b?l) adj.
2. Involving personal accountability or ability to act
without guidance or superior authority
4. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one's
own and therefore answerable for one's behavior.
6. Based on or characterized by good judgment or sound thinking
Is stunting of public streets irresponsible? Of course. I still stand by that. But was my wheelie irresponsible? Perhaps. Was I showing off? No. Was I checking out the chicks who were checking out my wheelie? No – there were any pedestrians of any gender around at the time.

Were it not for the fact that the front wheel was about three and a half feet off the ground, it was a perfectly normal pass at an intersection.

But that isn't the point. Responsibility for anyone is a personal thing. It is also a moving target. Let me describe that with an example. When you head for Pune from Mumbai nowadays on a bike, you take a brilliant little piece of straight, empty road called the JNPT bypass. It's an access-controlled, tolled road with armco on both sides, infrequent trucks on the outbound side and for the moment, near-perfect tarmac as well. If I were to wheelie down this stretch, riding alone would it be irresponsible? It's not an easy question to answer.

From the legal perspective, there is no law that says all wheels of vehicles plying on Indian roads must always be in contact with the road. Why? Because we have too many potholes, maybe. So, in theory a wheelie isn't illegal. From what I understand, street-wheeliests, when booked, are charged with negligent or rash driving (riding is not a legal term). But logically, an empty road, with no danger to anyone (since there was no one present) is not negligent or rash. It's just a wheelie. Notice, the words negligent/rash both imply an inability to consider how other people would feel/react to your actions. If there was no one present, it annuls itself.

For the moral perspective, is a wheelie wrong? Hell no. That'd be like saying that the warm feeling that comes all over you from eating well, drinking well or having great sex is wrong. Wheelies are one of the return gifts of motorcycling to us riders. They're a sort of thank you from the bike. They're lovely. Especially when well done.

Which does not mean a blanket approval for all wheelies either. Maybe I wasn't clear enough. It wasn't a fast wheelie. It wasn't out-of-control. I didn't swap lanes in the process. I didn't cut anyone off. Hell, I even waited to ensure the intersection was clear before the front wheel came off terra firma. There were no more than four cars at the intersection with me and the traffic from the two other sides (one side closed for construction) was nil. As in, it was deserted. No peds, no cyclists... nothing. There was no one else there. If there was a safer, more considered way to pull it, I'd dearly like to know. Yes, yes, a deserted parking lot would have been better...

What I'm saying is that responsbility is a very personal thing. While I don't think a celebratory wheelie is responsible, I think that particular wheelie was not a bad thing in my book. If I had pulled a 60 kph minger in the middle of heavy traffic, while passing a school bus around the outside, now that would be different. If I did something like that, that would not only be irresponsible, that would be suicidal. I hope I never come to that.

Some anonymous soul clucked his/her tongue at the wheelie. Thanks for that. If I was even slightly out of touch with reality, you've reset that now.

As far as my stand – public road stunters deserve to be behind bars – goes. Let me just clarify that too. It's a broad brush, and I think that is the problem. The people I was raging against when I wrote that are people you have seen. They're the ones who don't give a damn. They don't care who they inconvenience, they have minimal situational awareness and they're accidents waiting to happen.

I think what I'm trying very hard to do is justify that wheelie I think what I'm trying to clarify is that perspective and information makes a lot of difference. A knife isn't morally wrong. When waved about in a crowd, it's dangerous and the person waving it is irresponsible (cue Indy Jones and smoking gun). When used carefully, it's a master's tool, a thing of pride and joy... Oh crap, I'm so getting flak for this...


Yogesh Sarkar said...

Well if you thought that much than surly the wheelie was a sane one. Heck it’s no ones business what you do with yourself or your bike as long as you are not putting any one else at risk.

Suddhasattwa said...

hey dude. it's ok as long as u know what ur doing & can ensure that no one else's gonna be harmed. keep going.. :-)