For Non Riders
All too commonly when we have conversations with people that do not ride, once the topic comes up that we ride will either have them talk with some envy or state that riding motorcycles is just a death wish. Moreover, they usually talk about someone they know that was in a terrible motorcycle accident and go on to discuss the sometimes gory details. While it may be good to be always reminded that what we do for enjoyment has its risks, personally I rather not hear of the tragedies of others each time I speak with non riders.
Though some of us may be on the defensive side of these conversations, perhaps consider it an opportunity to educate those that; as the motto on T-shirts state – “If I have to explain you wouldn’t understand.” We need to be aware that most non riders do not know that the skills required to properly ride a motorcycle under various conditions are a lot more than driving in a car. Also, because of the education or awareness process, or lack of, most drivers do not recognize a motorcycle on the roads.
We may see every bike we pass but that’s because we ride and are in tune to those others on the road, but we have to keep in mind that motorcycles are smaller, narrower in profile and can be easily hidden in blind spots or masked by larger objects (other cars, trucks, surroundings). In addition, it may be harder for them to judge the speed of the traveling bike because of its size and it may seem to look farther away from them depending on the situation. Some of these factors or a combination of them can contribute to the most common response when a driver has an accident with a motorcycle; “I didn’t see him/her.” Unfortunately their statement is correct and typically their actions are unintentional. If a driver causes serious injury to the rider they more than likely never forgive themselves – a no win situation for all involved.
Over 50% of all motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, although that statistic has been somewhat consistent for years, perhaps with a little education done on our part it could help reduce those numbers. When we talk to non riders about motorcycling we can give them a lot of information that would help them as well as ourselves.
They way we ride or operate the bike in certain situations may be something they do not understand. A lot of times we may adjust our speed to slow down just by decelerating on the throttle or downshifting which will show no indication on the brake light. We also will maneuver within in the lane to position ourselves for the best view for us or oncoming traffic as well to avoid objects such as potholes or debris. The debris factor is good to point out if they are in front of a motorcycle. While most autos can just drive over an object without incident, they can also “kick” that object suddenly into our path which may develop an issue for us. Furthermore, though motorcycles maybe more maneuverable than a car, it doesn’t mean that one can avoid a situation that arises. A rider’s skill level, road conditions, motorcycle capability and possibly weather and can some serious effects to a scenario.
Let them know that not all motorcycles have self cancelling signals and a rider may forget to turn them off. This could cause a problem with misinformation by the driver, though it’s not the drivers fault if something happen because of it but just a point to keep in mind. Intersections are the number one location for conflicts between motorcycles and auto’s, emphasize that drivers need to be more vigilant with viewing everything at these locations; certainly for motorcycles but for everything else that can be a possible hazard. Non riders also seem to think motorcycles can stop a lot faster that a car, at times the distance may be shorter but if you consider weight ratio’s our stopping distance is overall not a lot better than cars or trucks.
Sharing the roads is the responsibility of all drivers, riders, bicyclists and pedestrians; becoming better educated is a benefit for all. Ask those that do not ride to consider giving us a little more room, become more watchful for motorcycles (especially at intersections), and focus on driving. That means no texting, cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. If they consider a motorcyclist could be someone they know or relative it can make the desire to become better educated and aware which in turn is a major plus for all.
With all this information, we also have our part of responsibility; becoming a better rider through education, rider courses and practice can not only help protect ourselves but others we share the road with. Perhaps with some educating points to non riders, improvement of our own skills and more awareness on all parts; in time those conversations of knowing a motorcyclist that was involved in an accident can disappear. It may be hopeful thinking, but it’s something we can do to help that become reality. Be Smart and Safe out there.