(Motor)cycle safety

This is going to be one of those times when I open my head and let the rant spill out all over the computer screen.

Recently I watched an 11 p.m. newscast that included an emotional story about a motorcyclist group aiming to “raise awareness” when it comes to bike safety. Apparently, they chose to do this using the always-effective “ride around on loud Harleys in leather and chains and shout in gruff voices at makeshift rallies” method, which the general population always finds inviting.

Rather passionately, the group’s leader told the story of how he and his wife were nearly killed one night when a black car with no lights “appeared out of nowhere,” forcing the couple to take evasive action that resulted in the wife falling off her motorcycle.

While the incident was and similar motorcycle crashes are unfortunate, I must admit, the thing that drove me crazy was the guy’s take on how it could have been prevented.

“The people driving cars have got to look for us,” he said to the TV camera, slamming one clenched fist into his other hand with each syllable. “That’s all we’re asking.”

I stared at the TV perplexed. Was he serious?

Like this leather-clad gentleman, I also prefer two wheels to four when it comes to the road. Like this man wearing sunglasses on an overcast day, I also feel like I’m fighting a battle with automobiles each time I hop into the saddle. The difference is, however, my bike is powered by my legs and gravity – not some high performance motor.

If these motorcycle safety advocacy groups were smart, they’d shift their focus on themselves, which is what bicyclists tend to do. Fact is, a person is taking a greater risk each time they hit the road on a bike as opposed to a sturdier, more protective automobile. What would be a mere fender-bender in a car could be a fatal crash on a bike. The rider knows this; the rider takes that risk.

Instead of shouting in municipal parks on a Sunday afternoon, these people should have been convening at a community college to reiterate the importance of assuming the worst about automobile operators, who often don’t see motorcyclists, ignore them or try their hardest to avoid them.

Each time a cyclist approaches an intersection, for instance, he or she should believe the car approaching the stop sign at the cross road isn’t going to hit the brakes or, even worse, try to get in front of the him or her. Even motorists on a steady path cannot be trusted – he or she could be too busy texting or viewing porn on their smartphone to notice their two-wheeled companion on the road. Additionally, the streets are filled with motorists (and cyclists) who simply don’t know what they’re doing.

I have always likened the relationship between cars and bikes to someone unexpectedly finding a snake in his or her yard – the driver being the resident and the biker being the snake. The driver doesn’t want to hurt the biker, but he or she is startled by something he or she rarely sees. He freezes; the biker senses the fear and freezes as well.

The difference between homeowner vs. snake and car vs. bike, though, is the biker will always lose if contact is made. Extend a little courtesy if you meet a driver who looked out for you – it may encourage him or her to do it again.

That’s the type of advocacy that saves lives – not some aggressive pissing contest.

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