I recently spent a month in Bali, where I decided to rent a motorbike. Why? Five dollars per day, gas included.
Traffic in Kuta is complete batshit, but because of the 90 percent preponderance of scooters to cars, even a flat-out jam is more like syrup, a constant ooze. Before renting the bike, I stood on the corner of a busy signal-less intersection and observed, determined to figure out the protocol. I couldn't. It seemed chaotic and stupid. The frenzied blending of helmeted heads reminded me of lottery balls being tumbled. So I joined the fray on a Honda 125 and hoped my number wouldn't come up.
I've ridden motorcycles for many years in several cities, and I haven't been that tentative on two wheels since the chain slipped on my Stingray. Nervousness soon gave way to acceptance if not confidence, and I realized there actually is one basic rule: KEEP IT MOVING. Not elegant, but efficient.
So I get back to Los Angeles and on Saturday, July 13 and end up parked on Interstate 5 after a tanker truck hauling 8000 gallons of gasoline (everything is a circle) took the path less traveled into a bridge abutment, turning an overpass into a hibachi. As I sat there pushing the AC button, thinking it just might work for the first time in 10 years, I surveyed the hundreds of vehicles just sitting there like drooling metal idiots and wondered what it would take for my country to become a fluid, efficient, keep-it-moving scooter nation. Punch-in-the-gut gas prices haven't done it. In Southern California we have perfect weather, yet twice a day, five days a week a huge swath of the commuting public opts for two hours of brake pedal day camp.
So seriously, I really want to know, which is more chaotic and stupid?