MAY!!! My favorite month of the whole year!!
There are SO many great things about May: Summer is just around the corner! Flowers are blossoming soon if they haven’t already! The grass is getting greener everyday! The dark and rich earth is drying out from the “rainy season”! The critters (and this includes us humans) are feelin’ frisky and wanting to GET DOWN!! LOL! Bike events of all kinds are popping up everywhere (particularly POKER RUNS)! Open-fire cookouts are happenin’ (especially with things that are cooked on spits)! All night parties! Outside concerts full of LIVE music!! And sittin’ around a fire with friends on a starry night is so much more relaxing and comfortable when it’s not too chilly (or outright cold!)
May has also traditionally been ABATE’s “Motorcycle Awareness Month” which we ask the Governor to sign into effect each year. We also try each year to get local communities all over Ohio to officially note that on proclamations, and to display banners which remind folks to watch out for the scoots that are suddenly appearing on the roads in huge numbers. Here in Ohio, many people take a while to remember how to drive on slippery roads each winter... well, many others (perhaps the same ones) also forget that they have to begin watching out for bikes each spring.
Driving a car is so effortless these days with automatic transmissions, power steering, anti-locking brakes, power windows, cruise control, intermittent wipers, on-board cameras (so ya don’t even have to turn your head to back up), etc. etc. All a driver really HAS to do to get to where they’re going is to pay attention to what their car is doing on the way there... but many of them can’t even seem to do that. Distractions, like texting and super-loud thumping stereo systems, keep driver’s eyes off the road and their ears deaf from sirens and anything else going on around them (including a loud set of pipes). Not so much now, but in the past I’ve been known to crank up my tunes too. I even used to laugh and say, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” Well, I don’t find that so funny anymore LOL! But the thing is these days car stereos throw out more wattage than some of the bands I’ve played in!! And many cars are even set up with televisions to keep the kids entertained on long trips, which can also tend to distract the driver. Cars and trucks now have all of the comforts of your living room. Hell, we’ve finally reached the point where the damned things can drive themselves! Many drivers already own cars that can parallel park themselves... and that’s the part of the driver’s test that most people used to fail.
We tend to completely dismiss that which we don’t understand and/or can’t personally identify with whether it’s the vastness of space, concepts of each other’s spirituality, or even some of the most universal questions about mortality that directly affect ALL of us. It’s so much easier to just completely ignore anything mysterious, foreign, or perplexing.
Similarly while driving a car, many people who might have shied away from riding bikes all their lives simply don’t even stop to think about what motorcyclists have to contend with as they share the roads with them every day. They look at driving in traffic completely from their own perspective, and to them we’re invisible.
Sure, they notice motorcycles from a distance: they might see us as a blur on the interstates, or observe us on the streets just enough to shake their heads and wonder why-in-the-hell we ride when it’s cold or rainy, why our bikes are so loud, or to tell themselves for the millionth time that biking in general isn’t practical... and compared to a car, it IS after all in many ways a relatively dangerous and an often inconvenient way to get around.
I’m also certain that quite a few people get annoyed as hell when a long line of motorcycles on a run expect them (car drivers) to wait at a stop sign or sit through a green light while they take their time passing on through (especially if the drivers are in a hurry!) But other than all that, they really DON’T pay us much attention or give us much thought, other than to possibly think we’re loudly rude and self-centered.
In MY fifty-plus years of continuously owning and riding a street-bike, the number of times someone has pulled out in front of me, cut me off, or has done something else equally stupid is countless. A FEW times car drivers have leaned over and shouted things to me at the next stop like, “I’m so sorry! My brother-in-law rides and I should have known better!” or “My next door neighbor rides and I just feel like shit!” or “My daughter rides and if someone did this to her I’d be pissed my OWN self!” (And at least THOSE people apologized!) But no matter what they said to me, or what I said back to them, I immediately understood that they didn’t have a clue as to HOW it happened, even if they did admit that they weren’t paying attention (and “I didn’t see you” is a major cop-out even if it IS true). But I think that I DO know how this happens, and more importantly... WHY.
It isn’t because they (car drivers) don’t care... nobody WANTS to cause an accident! It’s because they don’t understand what it’s like to be riding a bike in traffic, therefore they aren’t thinking about it, or even considering it, as they drive their cars merrily on down the road with a beep beep here and a beep beep there.
Oh sure, there are some assholes who seem to take a perverse pleasure in messing with bikers. There are even more idiots who are so damned drunk or distracted that they don’t even know or care WHAT the hell they’re doing to us. But like I said, I think MOST car drivers who cause us problems and injuries simply have no empathy about scooters because they can’t conceive what it’s like to be on a bike regularly in traffic, so they couldn’t put themselves in our places, which is the very definition of “empathy”. And if a few of them HAVE ridden a few times (possibly long ago)... they’ve forgotten what it’s like.
Of course of the thousands of car/bike collisions, I’m sure that more than a few cars were driven by experienced motorcyclists who happened to be behind a steering wheel that day instead of a set of handlebars. There are ALWAYS exceptions to everything, and accidents by their very definition ARE accidents. But for the most part, I really believe that it often stems from lack of intimate motorcycling knowledge, therefore there is no significant concern on the part of the drivers.
Now, I’ve been an officer in ABATE long enough to know that if you think that a problem exists, you should at least TRY to come up with a solution. Well, I’ve thunk and thunk about this for years, but I just can’t come up with anything practical.
Even if it WAS possible to make some sort of “Driver Versus Rider Education” classes mandatory in our schools, that might be irrelevant when the new “Smart Highway” system starts being utilized, which is probably in itself going to cause biking (as we know it) a LOT of problems... so THAT might not be practical. In fact, in a strangely ironic way, as long as we can still do OUR thing as we like to do it (and that’s a big IF), “Smart Highways” MIGHT even be safer for us by diminishing “driver error” (that is IF they can figure the interaction of bikes into the equation). But we’ll have to wait and see about that. No matter how ya look at it, things WILL be different and at least pretty uncomfortable for us when all that is initiated.
People who have no interest in motorcycles wouldn’t have any interest in motorcycle safety either, so all the documentaries and TV commercials that could ever be made would go unwatched or unnoticed by most people EXCEPT motorcyclists... so THAT’S not practical either.
When I first started riding as a teenager, I wanted so badly for everyone to notice me as I chugged on down the road raking my pipes. Sorta like, “Hey! Look at me! I’m one badass biker from hell and I’m gonna steal your women, drink yer likker, and just impress the hell outta all of ya!!” LOL! But as I approach my twilight years I’ve become fat and lazy... so any ambition of my being some kind of two-wheeled “chick magnet” have long faded into absurdity, and now the last thing I care about when riding is to be any kind of spectacle. (However, I would like to be totin’ a whole RACK of taillights, turn signals, and brake lights!)
The point of all this is that I no longer wanna be on parade, I just wanna ride entirely for the pure pleasure of it, and to be noticed only for safety reasons.
I dunno. Maybe someone way smarter than me can come up with some way to educate the car-driving public about what we have to go through... and hopefully that might make them pay more attention to sharing the road with motorcycles. But for now we just have to deal with things as they are... so let’s keep being careful out there folks!!
Talk to ya soon,