I've been thinking a lot today about the attitude that riders "bring it on themselves" and that we're "asking for it" by virtue of choosing to ride a motorcycle. And I'm quite mad about it.
This may sound like a hair splitting distinction, but it's a really important point that a lot of non-riders I speak to don't seem to grasp. In desperation I've reached for the only parallel I can think of - that abhorrent attitude that some men have historically espoused which places the blame for rape upon a girl who was dressed in revealing clothes. And while we acknowledge that rape happens, and is an evil and abhorrent reality, we will I trust never become accepting of this. We will never accept it as natural or inevitable.
But in conversations I have had with non-riders, some people have been quite happy to say that in the event of an collision with a car, the rider has brought their injuries upon themselves by choosing to ride a bike.
Now if people want to point and laugh at me when I arrive at work soaked to the skin, with fingers and lips turning blue from the cold, I am happy to accept that. I choose to ride a motorbike in sub-zero temperatures and so the consequences of being subject to the vagaries of Melbourne's weather are mine to enjoy, or at least endure.
When we cross over into talking about the consequences of other people's decisions and mistakes being our fault, however, we've crossed a line that should not be crossed. If we make it acceptable for people to harm others through their actions, and blame the victims for being in the way, then we've chosen to let people get away with whatever they can blame on someone else. What we ought to be doing, as a society and a culture, is encouraging and requiring people to take responsibility for themselves and for their own decisions, and to encourage and require people to behave in a socially responsible way that doesn't impinge upon the freedoms and happiness of others.