Thursday, May 11, 2006

What was he thinking???!!!

It's time for the mild-mannered blogger to look for the nearest phone booth. It might be a long search. ( there are fewer and fewer phone booths these days ) There's a flurry of struggling and a string of profanity. ( the uniform seems tighter these days ) Finally, he bursts forth and is transformed into Super Ranter!

Yes, I have finally had enough of stupid riders. That's right, not motorists. I said "riders". This is my blog so I'm using the space to rant. I was actually in bed for the evening. This thing kept churning over and over in my mind. I finally had to get up and get it out of my system so I could go to sleep. You can choose to read it or not. Your choice.

Got a call from my brother really early this morning. He's my brother so he takes these kind of liberties. Jim is a reserve officer for the Portland Police Bureau. There was an accident involving a motorcyclist. So Jim called me. Kind of a "Bikes R Us" thing, I guess.

Here's the scene. It's late night Tuesday night. Not yet Wednesday morning. Two bikes in SE Portland. This is a town of over half a million people. This particular area is comprised of streets with two lanes each direction plus a turn lane. Five lanes of roadway. The cross streets are just as big. Traffic is relatively light for a city this size. Which means there isn't really any quiet times. Just not as many cars as the 5 hour afternoon rush hour.

At a stop light on Division at 122nd sit two bikes. According to a handful of witnesses one's a Harley and the other a Suzuki. Hard to tell about the Harley. Could have been a cruiser with loud pipes and the witnesses just assumed, you know. We might never know because the Harley rider fled the scene. We do know about the Suzuki. My brother was one of the officers on the scene. No doubt about the Suzuki. The demolished bike was readily identifiable.

The light turned and both bikes took off. The Suzuki in the lane nearest the curb and the Harley next to the turn lane. Witnesses say the sport bike did three wheelies in the next couple of blocks. ( they probably saw the front wheel lofting under acceleration ) Enter one Ford Explorer SUV. It's at 125th, waiting to turn West onto Division. The bikes were heading East on Division. The SUV got the light and started making the turn. Didn't get far before the Suzuki crashed into it. The rider was, and forever will be, 34 years old. Jim says he was DOA ( dead on arrival ) but I guess it takes someone more medically trained to make the official pronouncement. The rider was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and pronounced dead there. The other bike fled.

Personally, I have no sympathy for the deceased rider. I know it seems harsh. A person might think it's a travesty to pay for a stupid mistake with one's life. I say, there's Stupid, Really Stupid, and Criminally Stupid. This rider didn't make a mistake. He deliberately chose to take a path somewhere between Really Stupid and Criminally Stupid. Like the old saying "You pays your money and you takes your chances". The rider placed his bet and lost. The gene pool just got cleansed a little bit.

I don't know if there was a wife or kids left behind. Either way, someone, somewhere, probably loved this guy. For them, I have empathy. It's like parents with kids who make bad choices. The parents always hope the kid will learn to make better choices. Through it all the parent loves the kid. When a bad choice leads to fatal consequences, knowing it was the kid's own fault doesn't make the loss any easier.

It seems really weird for me to say this, but I also have empathy for the driver of the SUV. The Ford had a green light. The official statement says the driver of the SUV innocently ended up in the path of the bikes. The bikes were established without a doubt to be racing at high speeds. End of story. I have questions. Shouldn't the driver have seen the speeding bikes and waited a little longer? Did the driver actually see the bikes but have trouble judging the speed as many motorists claim? Did the driver assume the bikes would stop at the light? I don't know. I wasn't behind the wheel.

What I do know is that the person who WAS behind the wheel of the Ford thought they were right. All of a sudden the Suzuki crashes into the driver's side of the SUV. The news photo is above. There were some physical injuries. A crash like that has to leave a scar. An emotional scar. Forever remembered how a rider crashed into their vehicle and died. For that, I have empathy.

My biggest rant is how it affects the community of riders as a whole. Oregon's only had two fatalities this year before this crash. Down from 10 this time last year. After a while this rider's death will be just another statistic. Nobody's going to remember that it was his own stupidity that killed him. It will be just another fatality. Enough of them and the Government will step in and try to do something. Oh, they'll use the ammunition that these riders' deaths will provide. Waving the Flag of Public Safety, new rules and restrictions will be put in place. It never was, and never will be spurred by genuine concern for people. One of the biggest lies ever told is this: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". Yeah, right.

Personal agendas and interests is what will be fulfilled using the disguise of safety. We don't need it, we don't want it. Unfortunately, given the number of riders who maim and kill themselves, it will probably be a foregone conclusion. Even though I like to think that a lot of us are some sort of "Noble Group", motorcyclists are a representative slice of humanity. I'm disillusioned to think that there will always be "those" among us.

The other rant is that this kind of thing adds fuel to the already blazing "motorcycles are too dangerous" fires. Again, public perception is slanted because it's these kind of riders that always seem to take center stage. The news media never reports on how many riders sanely commute and have fun on bikes. It's always the sensational they're after. People unfailingly buy into the falsehood. For instance, there's a kid in town who really pisses me off. He's got a blue Yahama R-1 trick sport bike. The guy goes all over town and spends a lot of time with the front tire in the air. I can hardly go to a gas station or store on the bike without hearing about how stupid this kid is. I agree, but who will they remember? Not me in my Aerostich gear, full face helmet, and quiet sport-tourer, that's for sure.

Guess what? Who do you think is going to vote on legislation and restrictions for bikes? Yep, these same people who only remember the idiots who do stupid things or proudly irritate everyone with their loud pipes. These same idiots will defiantly declare that they have the right to do what they want. Dream on, people. The sooner they realize they're outnumbered at the polls the better. I don't want to kiss anyone's ass just to avoid restrictive legislation, either. I do believe in being courteous and respectful of others. I ask the same in return. The reality is that we can't afford to be deliberately calling attention to ourselves by being stupid. Let alone being Really Stupid or Criminally Stupid.

If I have the opportunity to cross paths with one of "those" I politely but firmly point out the error of their way, so to speak. It might piss them off, but think about it. Do you really want someone like that as a friend or ally? Do you want to be associated with them? If they see the light, great. If not, at least I had the courage to say something. For me, it's a matter of implied consent. In other words, the absence of "no" means "yes". I've been a motorcycle safety professional for a long time. A lot of the local motorcycling community knows me as such. The situation puts me under obligation to take a stand.

Ok, that's it for now. Time to go back into the phone booth and try to get out of these ridiculous tights. My duty has been done, for now. At least this rant has released the pressure valve of my righteous indignation for a while. It's well after midnight. I think I can go to sleep, now. I've kept the cape for a blanket.

Miles and smiles,


Steve Williams said...

It is hard to argue with you Dan. The "antics" of idiotic riders have a detrimental effect far beyond any single death or mishap. It is additionally troubling because the speed, noise, and dangerous riding methods reinforce the rebel image among many riders and the nusiance factor among non-riders.

We've had a few motorcycle deaths so far in Pennsylvania and a stream of accidents. The latest local one being a rider on a big cruiser bike running into the back of a Suburban because he could not swerve fast enough when the SUV made a turn. Bottomline was he was tailgating. I see riders doing it all the time. I followed a Yamaha Vino into work this morning and the woman riding it was 10 feet from the rear bumper of a Yukon at 50 MPH. Go figure...

I would like to think that someday we'll see all riders thoughtful, considerate, reflective, and skilled. Knowing that for many the acquisition of a motorcycle is a statement and reflection of who they believe themselves to be or wish they were. Technique, safety, risk management---those things don't enter into the equation. Because of this motivation and the inherent dangers of immature riding we will always have the potential problem of irresponsible riders creating a negative effect for the riding community.

Ranting? Maybe is more of a passionate concern thing....


Tinker said...

The law against Felony Stupid, is rigorously enforced. The penalty is death. You kind of expect this sort of thing in a 22 year old, but by the time you've lived to 34 you no longer expect it. And he ruined a nice bike, too.

irondad said...

It's like I said in an earlier post. Riders still think like car drivers. Or DON"T think as the case may be. Different people are looking for different things from riding. I posted on Gary's blog a statement that if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.

Welcome to my humble blog. I really like the Felony Stupid thing. I heard once that the deterrent of punishment isn't the harshness, it's the inevitability. Why it seems to work for "statute" but not stupidity, I don't know.

Art said...

Hey Dan I don't blame you for not feeling sorry for the Suzuki rider. On my way to work last week on the freeway I was on the far right lane cruising 65 mph and i noticed on my mirror 4 sports bike rider speeding. As they pass me on of them looked at me and shook his head probably laughing why I'm riding to slow. Anyways two of the rider took the lead one took the far left lane and the other took the far right lane and at the same time popped a wheelie going 70mph. I hate to say this but I had wish they make a mistake so that they would learn a lesson. Stunt on public highway just doesn't serve any purpose please do it some place else. I now know that riding motorcycle is not dangerous the person riding the motorcycle (ie stunts) is more dangerous...