Thursday, April 07, 2011

Motorcycles do not kill people.

My littlest Ninja passed the 25,000 mile mark the other day.  Not bad for almost four years.  I need to ride more.

I was in line buying a handful of Chick-o-Sticks this afternoon and struck up a conversation with the beer delivery guy at a gas station on Elysian Fields Avenue.  He asked what kind of bike I have.  He told me he has a Honda 1000 something or other.  He mentioned he was riding on Saturday and one of his companions had an accident.  A lady nicked his back tire as he was passing and it sent him into the air.  "He wasn't going too fast, I hope?"  The delivery man looked at the ground sheepishly, "Well, what we were doing wasn't exactly legal."

I will spare you the details of both the cause and the gruesome effects, but I understood completely. As the driver of a small machine, who navigates through an ecosystem designed for much larger vehicles, I've gotten myself into some tight, potentially dangerous, situations.  It is the nature of being astride a lot of power and having the opportunity to make use of it.  Motorcycles do not travel in reverse.  The are impelled to go forward only, forward whenever they have a chance.

This doesn't mean I am reckless, and there are plenty of people out there who don't know how to responsible with the power that an engine and throttle grant them.  This isn't meant to excuse illegal road maneuvers, but I would like to point out that different rules apply to motorcyclists than apply to cars.

I see no harm in judicious lane splitting.  It is legal in California, a place known for having a surfeit of cumbersome laws.  I also don't mind running red lights if no one else is around.  I am smarter than than an automatic timer.  I believe in keeping traffic moving, especially my own.  A motorcycle grants freedom that should be exercised with wisdom and foresight and caution.  This takes practice.  Not necessarily 25,000 miles of practice, but somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 miles should suffice.  It should also be constant.  Every day.  If there is a break in routine, the practice begins from scratch until the motorcyclist is up to speed.  If you feel comfortable on a motorcycle, you should probably slow down and operate like a car.

The thought of dismemberment should haunt your every thought with every revolution per minute.

That said, motorcycles themselves can do know wrong, even if, sometimes, a motorcyclist crosses the line between responsible behavior and causing a hazard.  The main hazard created will be to him or herself.  Therein lies the tragedy: suicide by neglect.  Motorcycles don't kill people, people kill people.

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