From Mr. Subjective AKA Mr. Andy Goldfine I received a message that, among other subjects, was calling my attention to a post issued by him on May 13 and related to the Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month celebrated in USA during May. As far as I know, we do not have such event in Europe and definitely not in Turkey.
After serious considerations I decided to re-blog Andy’s article since it well in line with the search for Safety on the Road that thinkingomm.com is conducting by promoting thinking while riding.
Andy’s approach and suggestions go to the real core of the issue: while accepting that motorcyclist behaviour has to be educated and disciplined, the real source of rider risk on the road comes from our generally dominant non-motorcyclist primary culture, infrastructure and legislation.
Not only popularly-debated issues such as guardrails, diesel tanks, road maintenance and blinding front car pillars but, as important, the right that users (motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians) have in sharing safely on public road with respect of rights, space and priorities. Many times when I reveal my status of “only motorcycle user” I receive comments on how unsafe, terrifying and lethal must be to ride in Turkey (or in France or in Italy).
If we want to promote an educated use of two wheels (with or without motor) we must fight for the protection of the users before and after the accidents. And, as Andy says, to make riding safer will result in more people choosing to ride, and more people choosing to ride would lead to a better, cleaner, healthier, nicer world.
The idea behind this re-blogging is to raise among the riders-readers interest and questions on what the “Official Entities” preserving, protecting and promoting road motorcycling are doing and how the public money is spent for these three valuable objectives.
Here in integral form the Aerostich blog in reference preceded by the note that Andy sent me (in bold); you can read it at https://www.aerostich.com/blog/ where you’ll find, as well, many more interesting essays.
“On the Aerostich blog now is an essay I wrote about ‘motorcycle awareness month’, an event organized in America by the motorcycle industry trade association here ( MIC, Motorcycle Industry Council) and the national motorcycle riders association here (AMA, American Motorcyclist Association).
While it’s a good pro-motorcycle event in many ways, in my opinion these types of events fall short of what I as a rider would like these kinds of organizations to be doing for me.
We thought this essay would ‘ruffle feathers’ we did not want ruffled, so we somewhat cowardly decided to just put it up on the blog without any kind of PR announcement.
Our blog has a very small audience. But you might like it. And if you do read it and like it and want to share it with your audience please introduce it to them to it with the above comments about why we put it on our blog without any notice. Because there’s nothing wrong with the annual event. It just falls far short of what these kinds of entities ought to be doing for us riders.
“Motorcycle Awareness Month…”
Year after year this is co-promoted by both the AMA and the Motorcycle Industry Council, and almost nobody cares.
The AMA is the American Motorcyclist Association and is the largest membership motorcycle rider political group (PAC) in the country. Sort of like the NRA (National Rifle Association) but for motorcyclists. They also provide racing sanctions and rule books and oversee a large amateur racing program. The MIC is a small but important (important = well financed) group supported by the large motorcycle companies like Honda, Triumph, Yamaha, etc., and via a related-yet-independent foundation they also finance and organize most of the rider-training materials and curriculums used by state-organized rider training programs.
My cynical side never quite knows what to do with ‘motorcycle awareness month’. I think it’s mostly pretty silly but maybe it helps prevent a few crashes, injuries or deaths, so it’s not entirely without basis or benefit. I doubt it helps sell many more motorcycles, though. It’s just the kind of thing special interest trade associations such as the MIC like to do.
How we might present this to our Aerostich audiences of (on average) experienced higher-mile riders without seeming to be jerks is a little tricky. On one hand I’d like to acknowledge this promotion seems a little trite, but on the other hand if it saves even one rider’s life it’s an immeasurably great thing.
What informs my cynicism is the idea that when one decides to ride one is forced accept how if one ever is in an accident when riding, the entire legal system in most crash scenarios biased against the rider. This is simply because almost every legislator, judge, jury member — and every attorney on all sides – all most likely drive a car to their jobs. Thus, it’s almost impossible to get a fair trial with any kind of significant punishment for the guilty, or fair compensation for the injured.
With bicycle riders it is exactly the same. See these stories from Outside Online: What to Do if You’re Hit by a Car and Cycling Deaths. Somewhere buried in the embedded links within this story* was a statistic that more than 85% of car drivers who kill a bicycle rider are never charged with any kind of crime. This travesty is not so different for motorcyclists and pedestrians.
I’ve always been in favor of laws with increased penalties to force a bias against some kinds of misbehaviour. Similar to what MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) accomplished thirty years ago. Similar to how in some states there are laws explicitly providing very strong penalties for any driver who kills a highway construction worker. In Michigan the law requires a minimum $10,000 fine or a year in jail. I don’t think Minnesota or Wisconsin has such a law. These kinds of laws have real teeth that strongly discourage irresponsible driving. They forcefully say: “Don’t text and drive!” and “Pay attention, slow down!” and “Don’t drive impaired!”
If the MIC and the AMA wanted to do something meaningful for increasing awareness of motorcycling and motorcyclists, instead of promoting ‘motorcycle awareness month’ they could work together to try and get strong ‘vulnerable road user’ laws passed in every state.
An even grander and far more effective coalition would include all of the state and national motorcycle rights groups (like ABATE, Ride to Work, others), all of the bicycle clubs (like the Adventure Cycling Association, National Bicycle Dealers Association, League of American Bicyclists, others) and all of the all of the hiking and walking clubs (like the America Walks, Partnership for a Walkable America, others). There are a few dozen ‘umbrella’ organizations in these areas, though some have hundreds of affiliated sub-groups and chapters.
Co-ordinating such an effort would be a tremendous challenge and cost real money. And any even mildly biased ‘vulnerable-road-user’ protecting laws would probably be fiercely resisted by well-organized and well-financed opponents. Enactment would also depend on fickle political circumstances, just as the enactment of the civil rights and school integration laws of the 1960’s did. Those laws were also biased in favor of the disadvantaged and vulnerable.
Regardless of any kind of possible opposition, today’s riders and walkers have already got something far more powerful: more dead martyrs to a longstanding pattern of civil injustice than anyone would ever want. A “Hit, injure or kill a bicyclist, pedestrian or motorcyclist and get a mandatory XXX fine or XXX in jail.” type-law would discourage and reduce bad driving. This message would look great on roadside markers, billboards, and in driver training manuals, too.
These types of laws work. They are constitutional. And they would make riding safer. The result would be more people choosing to ride — And more people choosing to ride would lead to a better, cleaner, healthier, nicer world.
‘Motorcycle Awareness Month’? Meh.
– Mr. Subjective, March 2020 (Mr. Subjective is Andy Goldfine, the founder of the Aerostich rider’s equipment company and organizer of the annual ‘Ride to Work Day’.)
*According to data collected by cycling advocate David Cranor for the non-profit Greater Greater Washington, between 1971 and 2019, there were 132 cyclists killed by drivers in the Washington, D.C., area. 87% were not charged with a crime, 13% were charge and 8% served time.
** Read more stories from Outside Online: What to Do if You’re Hit by a Car and Cycling Deaths