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Just one day in SA traffic life

2012-09-03 08:33

TWO LOW-FLIERS: If Kawasaki's ZX14, the fastest production bike yet made, had wings it would lift off but for SA drivers' habiits.


"Speed kills" is basically a slogan bandied about by the world's traffic cops but it’s not really correct, is it? If that were true how come motorways are so safe?

Each year the Isle of Man hosts TT fortnight: motorcycle road racing at its fastest and finest. And yet the worst accident rate in 105 years of racing saw "just" five competitors killed. Meanwhile, on the rest of the roads throughout the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) ±65 motorists are killed every week - year in and year out.


No, it’s the global misuse of speed that’s the problem; and the sooner traffic cops realise this the better. Picture the following: I collected the keys to a Kawasaki ZX14 recently. I travelled from the centre of Cape Town to my home in the southern suburbs. Time would be around 10am on a beautiful winter’s day. This was part of my test route that consists a fair amount of the M3 and then across to the – hold on – I’m not about to tell you every small detail – just in case you have it in for me!

Entering the M3 at Groote Schuur bend I’m eventually forced to queue because two large trucks are having their own private grand prix and only when the one in the fast lane backs off just before the permanent speed camera at the Rhodes Drive intersection do I get the chance to overtake safely. I catch sight of a police car parked alongside the Shell garage and presumably he has eyes in his head.

Did he not perhaps wonder why no traffic seemed to be coming his way for a few minutes?

No matter.


I eventually get to ease across to the fast lane on the ZX14, taking cognisance of the 60km/h speed limit in that area. A straightish, clear section, 80km/h and on to 100km/h beckons, but another traffic jam is evolving right in front of my eyes. Slow to 75 or so and wait for another pair of delivery vans to finish having their dice before I can proceed. This takes another 1.5km or so but surely the wait will be worth it.


Yet another vehicle – this time a kombi-type one – enters the M3 at the Wynberg onramp and promptly heads straight for the "fast" lane (still only two lanes). Indicating his intentions to other road users was not on his agenda that day. The driver was presumably too preoccupied trying to keep the vehicle upright in the fast lane. He obviously couldn’t see me because of the amount of heads bobbing around in the back that defied even Newton’s Laws of Gravity! He’s proceeding on his way, so why must he worry!

I can’t go left because slower traffic is there (rightly), preparing to turn off at Kendal Road/Ladies Mile. The taxi backs off because of the impending camera that everyone in South Africa knows about but he's unable to regain his “speed”. We're now halfway down a hill approaching the Tokai/Blue Route offramp.


The first lane is free – does our friend move over? Not a bit of it. I’ve travelled around 12km from town and I’m getting frustrated. Not a good position to be in on two wheels, I can tell you. The bike between my legs can reach 100km/h from standstill in 2.9 seconds but I can’t get past this berk who's managing 90km/h and slowing.

Nothing for it but to go around him, I’ve waited long enough. You DO know it ISN'T illegal to pass on the left if that lane is free and the right-hand lane occupied? Trust me on that – but don’t do it in the UK. They’ll lock you up and throw away the key. I drop two gears and open up the ZX, with every intention of taking the Tokai turnoff.

The bike is so smooth, I can see out of the corner of my eye that the rev counter is up to seven thou, the speedometer showing a good turn of speed. I back off, deciding instead to continue to the end of the motorway and use the hard shoulder for a walk around the bike to consider what’s just happened to me during the past 30 minutes. I immediately abandon any thoughts of completing my usual test route up and over Oud Kaapseweg there and then. It just wasn’t my day.

Suffice to say the stunning Thunder Blue machine stood in my garage for the rest of the test period mainly due to heavy bouts of rain experienced at this time of the year. I begin to re-consider some Highway Code facts ingrained in my brain … and remembered the theoretical side of the South African K53 driving test is based on the Institute of Advanced Motorists driving test out of the UK.

Yet we don’t have better drivers on our roads… something is definitely amiss.


I kept questioning myself why the lone traffic cop who was parked-off on one of the busiest (and correspondingly dangerous) sections after Rhodes Drive in the Mother City was simply oblivious to traffic conditions. Shouldn’t he rather be prowling the streets to show who's boss, and all that stuff?

Sorry, Kawasaki, but I've let you guys down by not being able to test the bike properly this time around. Perhaps you should have rather organised a track day to let journos evaluate the bike.

Motorcyclists on our roads are generally well-behaved but have it really tough putting up with crap of this nature. And yet we must be among the finest riders on the planet – how else could we have survived for so long?

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