Columnist crosses line on call for motorbike ban

A tabloid newspaper columnist who called for riders to be banned from “motorcycle roads” because they pose a risk to other motorists has attracted national and international attention and ire.

Newcastle Herald columnist Jeff Corbett (pictured above) has certainly done his job of attracting readers. Click here to read his column.

His column suggests:

  • Riders are “free to be daredevils” because they don’t wear a seatbelt;
  • “Statisticians keep pumping out motorbike-horror stats but they seem only to excite the risk takers”;
  • “Other road users are at high risk from motorbikes”;
  • Motorbikes should be banned on all “high-risk motorbike roads, starting with Putty Road and Thunderbolts Way”;
  • Lower motorbike speed limits should be introduced for winding roads;
  • “There’s not much more to riding a motorbike than thrills”; and
  • The motorbike would not be allowed on the roads if it were invented now.

Praise and criticism for columnist

His comments have attracted praise from some of his readers, but mainly criticism.

The article has also been published internationally by under the heading “Things could be worse: You could be in Australia”. The author says the columnist has “crossed the line” with his article.

We posted a link to the article on our Facebook page and some of our readers questioned his parentage, his sexuality and his sanity.

However, we question his professionalism.

Shock jock journalism

It’s ok to be a shock jock. I worked as a tabloid journo for many years and I know how to stir the pot to encourage healthy community debate.

But you have to back up your arguments with logic and facts or it becomes irresponsible.

The danger is that columnists such as this journo demonise riders.

This enshrines the old “temporary Australians” tag that seems to give license to motorists to bully vulnerable riders on the road and not show them any respect. That leads to road rage and death

We tried to contact the Newcastle Herald to redress the columnist’s dangerous rhetoric and interview the author to seek a valid explanation for his article, but we have so far not received a reply.

Fighting rhetoric with fact

So, rather than fighting baseless rhetoric with more rhetoric, we have answered each of his claims with logic and fact:

  • Daredevils: Yes, riders take risks, but so do many other motorists. At least most riders mitigate risks by wearing more than the bare legal minimum protection of a helmet. Riders are also far more likely to seek advanced rider training after licensing than car drivers;
  • Horror stats encourage risk takers: Really? Do horror stats about domestic violence encourage wife beaters, or do horror stats about fast foods and sugar encourage obesity, or do horror cancer stats encourage people to get a sunburn? We could go on …
  • Motorcyclists endanger other road users: In fact, a 2016 paper by QUT researchers Narelle Howarth finds “In multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes, the motorcycle rider is less likely to be at-fault but more commonly severely injured than the other road user”;
  • Ban motorbikes on motorbike roads: Trucks account for about 8% of traffic, but 11% of fatalities, so using this columnist’s logic, trucks should be banned from trucking roads;
  • Lower bike speed limits on winding roads: It’s the slow four-wheeled traffic on these roads that causes the problem of frustration for other road users, encouraging dangerous overtaking;
  • Nothing more to bikes than thrills: Agreed that motorcycles provide thrills, but they are also a practical form of transport and a solution to traffic congestion, limited parking spaces and air pollution. Motorcycle tourism is also conservatively estimated to be worth $350m a year, particularly to regional areas such as Newcastle and the Hunter region (the Blue Gum Cafe on the Putty Rd would close if riders were banned from the road); and
  • “The motorbike would not be allowed on the roads if it were invented now”: This is such a tired old aphorism that shows lazy journalism. By the same token, internal combustion engines would not be allowed if they were invented now!

What do you think of this columnist’s call for a rider ban? Leave your comments below.

Leave a Reply