I’ve ridden motorbikes all my life (well, since I was about four). And in that time, I’ve often felt like a bit of a second class citizen. A lot of people think we motorcyclists make too much noise, get in the way and generally cause trouble. And it’s clear that we’re often an afterthought as far as road safety is concerned. Unless you’re talking about the Isle of Man, that is. Because there, motorcycle safety definitely isn’t an afterthought.
The reason I’m writing this is because I’ve just seen an article online. It was about a pair of new zebra crossings that are about to be installed In Kirk Michael, on the Isle of Man. What’s the big deal? Well these are no ordinary zebra crossings. Although they’ll still work in the exact same way as a zebra crossing, they won’t look the same. Because unlike their black and white, stripey, horse-like namesakes, they won’t be black and white. They’ll be black and red. Yeah, a black and red zebra crossing; you can’t make it up can ya?!
Why oh why have the Isle of Man Department of Infrastructure decided to defy convention all of a sudden and instal a pair of black and red ‘zebra’ crossings? One reason; motorcycle safety. As any motorcyclist knows, white paint is slippery (particularly when wet), and big chunks of it can be rather hazardous.
So instead of having a zebra crossing made up of big blocks of slippery white paint, the Manx folk have opted to substitute it for red tarmac. Not painted red tarmac; actual red tarmac. The idea is that the coloured section of the zebra crossing will have the same grip levels, as the non-painted section.
Why doesn’t every parish do this? Well that’s probably got something to do with the fact that the two zebra crossings in question are going smack-bang in the middle of a very fast section of the TT course. And in fairness, the red zebra crossing is more for the benefit of TT rider safety, than general motorcycle safety.
But if you ask me, that just goes to show how thoughtful the people in charge of the roads over there can be. In fact it’s not been the first time that I’ve been impressed with the Isle of Man Department of Infrastructure. There’s obviously somebody with a bit of clout, fighting in the corner of the TT riders. Every year I’ve raced over there (2016, 2018, 2019), there’ve been little improvements here and there. They might have resurfaced a particularly rough patch, or moved a scary looking fence back. It’s all little stuff, but every little helps.
I’m not expecting my local parish council to start wrapping trees in mattresses and resurfacing every road that isn’t billiard smooth. That happens on the Isle of Man because it’s home to the biggest, most famous (and unfortunately most dangerous) road race in the world. But it wouldn’t hurt to take a leaf out of the Isle of Man’s book, would it?