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It's nice to see you undertaking this project! I have a couple of questions about statements in your newsletter (IssueNo.1).
I was wondering about the basis for your statement that "higher statistical accident rates for riders are due to a greater incidence of excessive speed or impairment (DUI) among motorcyclists." I am an MSF instructor and the curriculum we use states that the incidence of impairment (DUI) among motorcyclists is not higher than among other motorists, just the consequences are. If you rely upon some authority in saying motorcyclists are impaired or DUI more than other motorists, I would be very interested in knowing about it.
Second, the Hurt study (which analyzed the causes of tens of thousands of motorcycle accidents, and remains the best information we have about why motorcyclists are accident-involved) indicates that the major causes of motorcycle accidents is the motorcycle not being seen by other motorists (due in part to a lack of conspicuity on the part of the motorcyclist) , followed by factors such as the motorcyclist's inability to swerve or use the brakes properly. I haven't seen excessive speed and DUI identified as causes of higher accident rates for motorcyclists. Can you tell me your authority for saying this?
Finally, do motorcyclists actually have more accidents than other motorists? Again, the MSF curriculum teaches that motorcyclists do not, but that the consequences of accidents for motorcyclists are more severe. Once again, I would appreciate knowing what you rely on in saying that they do.
I hope my requests aren't too burdensome... I figure it's important that we motorcyclists are putting accurate information out there, me included. So thanks for responding.
Susan Garner Russell (via email)
Thank you for your message and questions. The claims and statements were not taken from empirical or statistical sources like the Hurt report. The Daily Rider flyer was written to encourage participation in Ride To Work day. The source material for most of the content was a variety of articles and clippings published over the last few years. This pro-motorcycle editiorial material was combined and used without paying very much attention to annotation or documentation because the purpose of the flyer was to advocate riding to work. It is possible that some material was included which cannot be deductively supported.
The question at the center of this concern is: If leisure, social, and sport riding activities are removed from the motorcycling population so that only a small daily commuting rider group remains....then what kind of accident indices adhere to this commuting group, and how do these indices compare to the exclusively automobile using commuting population...and how do they compare to the overall private vehicle population? I would like to be able to statistically verify that motorcycle commuting is statistically 'safer' than the risks for all leisure/social/sport/general motorcycle riding activities. At this point the logic for arriving at that conclusion is inductively based, but with recent data mining capabilities there is a chance that additional kinds of statistically based evidence could be produced. One person with useful technical skills for doing this volunteered to work toward this end, but I do not know if he will produce anything. This kind of information would be useful for both motorcycling and for the Ride To Work day program. If you know someone who might be interested in helping us develop this data, please contact them. Risk is sort of a red herring for motorcycling. On a per mile basis, walking is something like 56 times more likey to involve an individual in an accident which results in death than riding in or driving an automobile. Similarly, being in a car is many times more dangerous than being in an airplane. Motorcycling falls somewhere along that continium...possibly even past the risks of walking (on a per mile traveled basis). But the greater social benefits of walking, bicycling, skating, skateboarding, and motorcycling for transportation all outweigh their higher risk factors (compared to using private automobiles). Despite popular suburbanized, capsulized modern life styles, we are socialized entities. Technologies which increase our socialization and re-inforce positive social behavors might sometimes be more directly risky, but they may also provide overall benefits that outweigh individual risks.
Let me know if you have questions or if I can be of other assistance.
Wow... that was quite a comprehensive response-- thanks!
I do understand the purpose of the newsletter-- and it's a good one. And I'm sure that we working stiffs who ride to work are probably among the more risk avoidant of motorcycle riders in general. I wonder about the um..pitfalls.. of pitting one class of motorcycle rider against another, and the risk that non-riders seeing statements that indicate that there is "greater incidence of excessive speed or impairment (DUI) among motorcyclists" could end up using that against all motorcyclists.... But thanks for your response.... and good luck with your project.
Thank you for your comments. I do not believe that identifying an existing segment of the motorcycling population and then providing encouragement and affirmation for that segment will pit "one class of motorcycle rider against another". There is always a xenophobic tendancy to balkanize behavior and culture (i.e. - 'think like me' or 'mine�s better than yours' or stuff like that.) but there are real bonds and shared concerns that link all riders from (at one extreme...) the teenage freerider with a 125cc MX bike to (something very different....) the retired two-up touring rider with the Wing and trailer setup. They both like motorcycles and both might be members of WOW or the AMA or any other motorcycle interest groups. These are two examples from almost opposite ends of the spectrum of all motorcyclists, but they both might be riding to work and choosing to support the Ride to Work progam on its direct and unique merits. The Ride to Work program is a unique and sharply focused addition to the existing array of pro motorcycle advocacy, public relations and evangelical groups. Expanding participation in Ride to Work Day is important. Your support will make a positive difference for motorcycling. I hope you will contribute to it's support and will enjoy participating in the Ride to Work program and it's objectives. Let me know if you have questions or if I can be of other assistance.
I got your newsletter re: rider rights, and will be sending a check in support. I am, however, concerned that you may ask for so much so fast that legislators point at this document and feel like what you are pursuing is too radical. I don't know what the history of other groups pursuing things like this is, but asking for lane splitting privileges in the same breath as improved roads and employers providing the "safe, secure parking" areas may have everybody from police groups to Chambers of Commerce up in arms saying that they are not willing to give an inch for fear of the proverbial mile.
Thanks for your message and support of Ride to Work Day. I understand your points about how we are asking for a lot, but my approach involves two things: First, make Ride to Work day as popular and successful as possible,....Second... ask for everything...absolutely everything...that would help motorcycling become more popular as a form of utility transportation. (the fun aspect of riding motorcycles takes care of itself) The only way is to ask for everything. What is 'realistic' or 'diplomatic' or 'possible' is not in any way relevant to the goals of this specific type of advocacy program. The analogy is to compare the NAACP with the Black Panthers or more moderate Jewish advocacy groups with more radical ones. The Ride to Work program is deliberately made to be radical in ways that would be impossible for an already politically engaged organization. Ride to Work will not directly advocate illegal riding activities, but there is a definite edge to some of it�s goals and positions. I think this radicalness will turn out to be a strength, not a weakness. We will not get as stuck in conventional political issues. We seek to empower and educate and give affirmation to those who ride for transportation...and see what happens as a result. Riding to work is a mundane, boring form of everyday radicalness. I do not expect to change the world, but even a small nudge in the motorcycle-as-transportation direction will help everyone.
From: "Macarthur, Douglas" (via email)
What's your position on helmet laws. Notice I say "laws". I believe this should be a free country, myself. Not arguing a safety issue here. This is a "freedom" issue. See you later,-Doug - please respond to helmet issue.
RTW Helmet law position
Ride to Work does not have any position on helmet laws. We are focused on "advocating and supporting the increased use of motorcycles for transportation, and providing information about transportation riding to motorcyclists and to the public." Holding strong subjective views on helmet laws and 'freedom' issues is important, but these things should not play a role in a riders decision to use a motorcycle to ride to work. Ride to Work endorses boots, gloves, protective clothing, helmets, eye wear and other gear that can make some everyday riding situations safer and more comfortable, so in that sense, we like helmets. But issues involving constitutional questions centered around the existing helmet laws are not related to our aim to expand participation in Ride To Work day....and to encourage motorcycle use as a fun and practical form of surface transportation.