OPINION: What's in a word? Plenty, actually, especially if you are one of the group of motorcyclists who were trying to do their bit for the community on Saturday and who were involved in a horrific crash.
The word that causes such offence - bikie - was inaccurately used with abandon by various parts of the media. At a time when two of the motorcyclists had died, and several others were badly injured, it was an unwarranted postscript to a day which held so much promise and ended so tragically.
The word "bikies" has all sorts of negative connotations and is a slang word made up in relatively recent times to be a collective noun for members of a motorcycle gang. The emphasis there is firmly on the word "gang" and Saturday's collection of motorcyclists could in no way be characterised as being anything resembling that.
In fact, quite the opposite was true. As it has been in recent years, the ride was organised by the Bikers Rights Organisation New Zealand Taranaki Inc. This round-the-mountain toy run is an annual event in which toys are donated to the Salvation Army to be distributed to under-privileged children.
Those participating were encouraged to join the organisation, but on its website it said "all that was needed was a motorcycle, and the desire to help out a couple of organisations that work so hard for our less-privileged children, not only during the festive season, but throughout the year". They are laudable aims from a group of people who may not fit the traditional community group image more often presented by Rotary and Lions clubs and their ilk, but their desire to be a positive force in the community and give to others worse off is just as real.
Everyone in Taranaki will join us in offering our sympathies to the families of New Plymouth man Gordon McKay, 68, and 40-year-old Kelly Reardon from Waitara.
Our best wishes also go to the others involved in the Normanby crash who are in hospital; we wish you all a speedy recovery and hope you are able to be with your families for Christmas.
Putting aside the horror many must have felt at the sickening crash, the majority of the group decided to continue with the charity run because they were "there for the kids who go without", a spokesman said.
Sadly, the crash underlines just how dangerous driving on our roads can be, a point illustrated on the front page of the Taranaki Daily News on the same day. Saturday's double fatality took the Taranaki road toll to 16. The weekend claimed seven road victims, including five motorcycle riders, all in the North Island.
A total of 273 people have died on the roads this year, up on 250 at the same time last year - a grim statistic which would surely have a sobering effect on drivers, whether they've been drinking or not, as we enter the start of the festive season.
- Taranaki Daily News
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