Editorial

Category:

Someone once told me that motorcyclists have 2 times as many fatalities as bicyclists and 10 times as many as car drivers. Motorbikes are dangerous but they probably aren't that lethal. Another published statistic 'proves' you are 56 times more likely to be killed when walking than when riding in a car...on a per mile traveled basis. All popular statistics are somewhat biased by social bigotry. Antimotorcycle prejudices thrive because bikes are 'non conforming' vehicles. What makes them seem excessively risky is...partly...that they are potentially disruptive to the order of our transportation system. Superior nimbleness causes bikes to be subconsciously seen as mildly threatening and seditious. Our road network is optimized for cars and light trucks so this bias is well rooted and insidious. Motorcycling may statistically chart as being riskier because more riders are young, male, and risk (speed/performance) oriented,...or because social drinking may more often be combined with riding than with overall driving activities. Riders sometimes become cynical, alienated or estranged after they've accepted the apparently increased risks of riding in return for it�s greater efficiency, enjoyment and fun.

There are lot's of people in cars who do not understand this. Some just...hate...it. (cops and judges, too.) Riders are culturally and socially marginalized whenever they decide to motorcycle for transportation. Motorcyclists must be more self-confident about their ability (and their luck) than all others on our roads.

Riders are the most hyperabled users of our transportation infrastructure... in the same way that athletes surpass general fitness norms. If a rider is killed by some car running a red light, the driver will get a $400 fine...and the available charge of vehicular manslaughter will probably not be applied. After all, everyone drives a car, including the judge. Almost everyone appreciates and accepts bikes as 'toys'...so that's how they are understood. This limited awareness is enormously harmful to all transportation-motorcycling riders.

Choosing riding is one of the most serious decisions anyone can make. The consequences of a typical bike accident are far less predetermined than those of an average car accident. A motorcycle accident may produce no injuries...or death,...depending on the specific crash kinesthetic and what (if anything) a fallen rider bumps into. We ride paranoid, maintain good technical riding skills and do not allow daily experiences to make us over-confident. These disciplines distinguish us from everyone else on the road and help explain some of the public's biases. Sometimes biases are...believe it or not...jealousy-generated.

The advantages of transportation motorcycling are easy to list: More parking, less road congestion, less energy consumption, less infrastructure wear, shorter travel times, more healthy and alert people, etc... Far too few persons view motorcycles as offering practical solutions to transportation, social and environmental problems. Pervasive mechanisms of social bigotry insure that many of motorcycling's risks will be widely misunderstood for some time. But accommodating both less-abled and hyper-abled road users improves conditions for everyone. Much has already been done for the former. (Ask any traffic engineer or planner...) Now we must begin to recognize the valuable contributions of the latter. Us. Transportation-motorcycling riders.

Motorcycling does not exist in a simple paper-covers-rock-breaks-scissors world. Every SUV does not crush every small car which does not crush every motorcycle which does not crush every pedestrian. How we drive, ride and walk makes a huge difference in all of our individual survival chances. Riding for transportation means placing one less car on the road...or in a parking space. Safely splitting a lane or filtering up to a light can reduce everyone's travel times. Other motorcycle-dense cultures already view riders in more socially positive ways. Riding here is not yet seen as both recreation and a powerful social good. This change will happen if we believe it can. Our cause is just now beginning. To borrow THE phrase: "we shall overcome".

There's no substitute for hard statistics. Current information about riding's risks facilitates...and is affected by...cultural biases. Motorcycle commuting may be somewhat more risky than taking a car or riding a bus. On the other hand, it may not actually be as awful as is widely believed. We don't yet know all of the answers or even all of the right questions. Advances in computers, software and other technologies should now permit the generation of truer statistics to more clearly and accurately gauge the risks of motorcycle commuting. If you are a statistician, actuary, data miner, quant, nerd or wonk and are looking for a new hobby, you can help. Vast existing databases are awaiting your examination. We'll distribute your new metrics. Over the long term everyone may begin to understand and appreciate the benefits of having more motorcyclists sharing our roads. It would be soooo great.