At some stage in our lives, we have each misbehaved or acted contrary to rules or laws that we feel are irrelevant, stupid or meant for that other guy. And sometimes, we have matured enough to later see just why those rules were in place in the first place and what our misspent youthful activities have resulted in.
I recently came across just such an example on a ride to Sodwana Bay on the Elephant Coast of South Africa. We had traveled from Johannesburg to Sodwana to have a chance to experience the almost magical coastline along northern Kwa Zulu Natal. We rode all the way to Sodwana, through the little settlement and up to the entrance to the parking area at Sodwana Bay beach, only to be stopped and prevented from entering the area because we were on motorcycles. I mean, the boom was not more than thirty feet from the parking area, but no - the guards weren't hearing our pleas and went as far as to say that they didn't even want the bikes even near the gate!
To add insult to our injured ego's, were were advised that even if we parked our bikes back in the village and walked down to the beach, the brief three minute walk from the gate to the beach itself would cost R48.00 per person..! This raises two distinct problems and limits the potential of the region to capitalise on the growing motorcycle touring markets.
Firstly, the ban on bikes into the reserve area (read: parking area) is a legacy of years of misuse and bad behavior of brain-dead motorcyclists that felt it necessary to roar up and down the almost vertical dunes of mountainous proportions, or along the packed surf on the beach itself , damaging fragile ecosystems and disturbing other visitors. A decision to deal harshly with motorcyclists of all persuasions followed, and today, if you are on a motorbike - tourer; adventure; cruiser or scrambler, you aren't welcome along the beaches of northern KZN. Put four wheels under your arse, and you get access - never mind the additional eco-damage caused by boats, trailers and four-by-fours. Can this ban ever be lifted..? Probably not, because we have developed and nurtured a bad-ass attitude for years that conservationists and petty officials remember well.
But the second - and perhaps more important issue, relates to the costs of getting access to a public beach. What kind of official thought could possibly believe that blocking access to a God-given beach along our own country's coastline can be justified - and at the price itself! R48.00 for a person on foot is simply a crime because it clearly discriminates against the local population and prevents people with good intentions of getting to some of this country's most impressive and awe-inspiring natural attractions. Charge ski-boat owners, motorists and any other vehicles entering the reserve with the intention of accessing the beach area (we don't have a problem because we aren't allowed anyway), but pedestrians...? Really?
So I guess what I am trying to say is that as a biking community, we have inherited a legacy from older generations of sometimes irresponsible and unruly citizens. This is something that we are trying to change as we go along, but we need to appreciate that everything that we do on our bikes today, adds to or reduces that reputation and legacy. By appreciating what a privilege motorcycle riding really is, and behaving appropriately in public spaces, maybe we can change that legacy and create one that we can all be proud of in the future.