Searching for a piece I thought I wrote, but could not find, I came upon the following list of rules I first published in October 2009. I believe it has relevance for places other than Fiji. Years of empirical evidence justifies the conclusions I have reached.
Rule number ONE
NEVER be quick away at the lights if you are first in the queue at an intersection. Repeat: Never. Ignore the impatient beeping behind you (which will start a microsecond before the lights turn green!). There is always, repeat: ALWAYS a jerk-off who will run the red from your right or left. This is not just a last-minute “the-lights-were-amber-as-I-arrived-but-then-turned-red” scenario, this is the desperate “I-am-in- a-movie-with-killers -carrying-automatic-weapons -chasing-me. My-only-hope-is-to-rush-at-the-intersection-before- the-container-truck-blocks-it” scene. You are the poor clot on the motorcycle who comes off spectacularly over a car bonnet right in front of the movie camera. Reject the script. Wait a tick after the lights change. Always.
Rule number TWO
Do not follow too closely behind taxis and buses, and be careful passing them when they are parked. They regard the road as exclusively their own, and other drivers as mere inconvenient interlopers. They will pull out in front of you, stop or suddenly change direction at any time, anywhere, including the middle of the road, the wrong side of the road or at an intersection, or indeed in any place where such action is stupid, dangerous, or illegal. At any time they will turn right from a left turn only lane, or left from a right turn only lane, just to pick up passengers, to get ahead, or for no apparent reason at all.
Rule number THREE
Do not split lanes or jump queues. Better to wait and live. Fijian drivers are very territorial and regard any advantage they may have as their own to defend, and defend it they will, using their vehicle as a weapon.
Rule number FOUR
Be territorial yourself. Claim a car-sized space around your bike and defend it as yours. Insist on having your own moving area of territory around you. This means do not ride to the left or to the right of the lane except when dodging potholes and dogs. Claim the whole width of your lane and defend it. Veer occasionally from one side to the other. Pretend you are dodging potholes if you have to. Normally you won’t have to pretend! Beep anyone who invades your space on either side of you, and make threatening gestures. If you do not, some car will force you off the road, or into oncoming traffic, or cut you off when he sees a friend or fare signalling on the side of the road.
Rule number FIVE
If someone wants to pass you, let them. Otherwise they will do something stupid in a place that is bad for you.
Rule number SIX
It is not just the taxis and buses which are dangerous, but there are more of them.
Rule number SEVEN
Use your mirrors.
I never got around to adding rules EIGHT, NINE and TEN:
EIGHT: There is oil on the road, and wherever there isn’t, there are potholes. In the unlikely event you find a stretch of road with neither, there are dogs.
NINE: Be on your guard. It is safe to assume that everyone else on the road, on the side of the road, near the road or on another island in the archipelago, is determined to try to kill you. Your mission is to figure out how and where, before they do.
TEN: They are going to do it in inventive and unexpected ways. You want an example? Cast iron manhole covers make a great cooking or barbecue plate.
Need I say more?
But Seriously, riding a bike in Fiji is totally worth the risks, if you are careful. However, I recommend you stick with a smaller bike.
Stay safe, stay upright!