This is a piece I’ve been noodling on for some time but the importance of it escalated for me after being taken out by a careless driver in January. I’m slowly regaining ground physically and emotionally but it’s been a long road. In the aftermath of the crash, so many of the challenges and stigmas motorcyclists face came down on me in a very personal way. But bigger than the criticisms and misunderstandings was the support of the motorcycling community. It makes me proud to be a part of that world and surrounded by great people.
Given the expansive nature of this discussion and the importance of bridging the gap between drivers and riders, I’ve divided this entry into two pieces. To get started, let’s talk about safety issues.
There are 8.5 million motorcyclists in the United States alone, that’s about 1 in 36. Chances are, you know more than one motorcyclist. To see how motorcycling ranks in your home state, check out this infographic from Motorcycle Roads.
And for all of the motorcyclists out there, we all have different motivations and stories behind why we ride. It’s a diverse and active community united by our love of two-wheeled adventures. So I tapped into this community to put together these tidbits we all want you to know because there is so much non-riders need to understand about us. We must share the road and riders are at a distinct disadvantage when things go badly.
I see distracted driving as part of a larger problem, which is people taking driving for granted and not viewing it as something that demands their full attention and actual mental effort to actually be proficient at it. There is more to operating a motor vehicle than simply operating a motor vehicle.
For more info, check out these astounding facts and take an honest look at your own behavior behind the wheel.
Car drivers don’t understand is that when passing a motorcycle, they need to give the biker the whole lane. They often just straddle the centerline, passing a motorcycle with a near miss, rather than moving over into the passing lane.
The big picture…
All of these challenges don’t mean we don’t belong on the road. All users have a right to be on the road. But some are more vulnerable than others. Three fellow riders I admire had this to say:
Many car drivers seem not to understand that when we are on our bikes we are not surrounded by two tons of steel and protected by air bags. So a collision, that in a car would only be inconvenient, can be fatal to a motorcyclist.
Everyone, everywhere should remember it’s not all about you. Do not make excuses and maintain your humanity. Be mindful and deliberate.
I want them to understand that under all this gear is a real live person. The motorcyclist you seem to be trying to kill is the suburban dad you might have smiled at in line at the grocer’s with his daughter. He’s the neighbor you wave to when he’s out walking his dog. He’s the guy you saw walking down the street with his girlfriend. He’s just like you.
Those words come to life in this video from the MSF Foundation. Please take the time to watch… and enjoy the retro vibe. It’s dated but still very relevant.
(Not so) final words…
Many riders spend a great deal of energy trying to do everything they can to be seen by employing special gear, bike mods, and riding techniques. When you have one segment of the road user population going to such extraordinary lengths to protect themselves from another one that is simply unaware and disengaged, there’s a problem. But it’s a fixable one.
In the aftermath of this, I was told people aren’t going to change. I don’t believe that. Awareness is very powerful. If this piece does that and saves even one motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian then I have helped change behaviors. Please help me prove that people can grow and change.
I’m sure other riders have thoughts they’d like to add so I hope they’ll comment, share, and continue the conversation.
I have more to say myself. Stay tuned for more on what riders want you to know.