Friday, January 19, 2007

When bad things happen to bad drivers.

I'm taking a little side trip today. It wasn't on the regular schedule. Of course, as riders we've never taken a side road just to see where it goes have we? There's no picture as we aren't taking the scenic route. This particular sojourn was instigated by a comment a reader made a few posts back. I like it when people have enough fortitude to offer honest feedback. Even if I'm the one in the crosshairs. More on the comment in just a bit.

The main purpose of this blog is to encourage folks to view two wheels as a viable form of transportation. The word "transportation" connotes utility. One of the most utilitarian things we do is commute to work. In other words, I'm trying to encourage more people to use their bike to ride to work. I distinctly remember writing that we weren't taking the scenic route. This paragraph sort of seems like the long way 'round, doesn't it?

My goal is to pass along tips and strategies for taking care of ourselves out there. Being a professional trainer I can't seem to get out of that mode. If I find some new item or way of doing things that will help a commuter I'll pass it along. The comments section of blogs are great venues for interaction between readers. I'm sort of disappointed that more don't take advantage of it. On the other hand, not everyone's comfortable engaging. Some like to sit back and quietly take away whatever they find of value. I understand.

Besides their value in commuting, bikes are just plain fun. There's enjoyment and personal growth to be experienced on every ride. I've been trying to share that side of riding, as well. It's been great fun to keep this blog. My own personal horizons have been expanded. I've gotten to know some great personalities in this blog community. Something that would never had happened if it hadn't been for the internet. This blog has also served as a medium to just plain express myself once in a while. That process of self-expression may cause offense to various readers now and then.

While I never set out to purposely offend anyone, I'm not afraid to be controversial. I've even been known to stir the pot once in a while just to see what comes to the top. Conflict in the proper context can create growth. As far as I know, I don't have it in for any particular group. I've always prided myself on being an equal opportunity offender.

Speaking of offending, time to come back to the comment. I have written disparaging things about SUV drivers. I also alluded to the fact that I liked to see bad things happen to them. A reader posted a comment wherein they took exception to my statements. He perceived my writings to be a negative blanket stereotype. It was pointed out that there are good and bad SUV drivers. Some who ride motorcycles also own SUV's. It would be presumed that these were being operated in a sane manner. The comment also stated that not all motorcyclists can be presumed to be good riders. For example, those who buy expensive bikes with no idea on how to ride well.

Feedback accepted and noted. I do not subscribe to all-encompassing stereotypes, good or bad. I can see where I gave that impression. More detail should have been provided for clarity. Let the "Court of Fairness" decree that stereotyping shall not be used in this blog.

During my years of commuting I have observed that there does seem to be some basis for making general statements. One example is what I continually see on my ride up the freeway in the morning. The little "Rocketships" ( those who travel at 80 or 90 mph while darting in and out of traffic ) are invariably the same type of cars. Tiny cars like Geo Metros, Ford Escorts or Focus, and tuner cars like Hondas and Accuras. I seldom see any other type of vehicle involved in this behaviour.

The vehicles that I experience being cut off and tailgated by are primarily SUV's. Even more specifically, it has been drivers of Fords. When the roads are flooded, snowy, or iced up, the vehicles I see being most aggressively ( as in without regard for the conditions ) are the four wheel drive SUV's. That's not stereotyping. It is based upon my own actual observations.

As the comment stated, negative stereotypes are bad news. It makes no difference if we're talking about SUV's or motorcycles. I agree to a point. There is one huge difference. It's this difference that's the whole point of my statements. My point has to do with consequences.

An SUV driver rarely suffers immediate consequences for inappropriate actions. A bike rider surely will. I'm often seeing an SUV driver signal for one flash and then try to crowd me out. It's like they believe the turn signal light activates some sort of force field that clears the way for them. I'm sure they figure that I'm not going to be able to do anything about it anyway. After all, who's got the biggest vehicle? Whether you call it incompetence or rudeness, they get away with it a lot. Guess what happens to a person on a motorcycle, on the other hand? Riders don't get away with bad judgement very often.

You see the difference?

Perhaps I'm more sensitized to it. In the real world people don't really pay the immediate price for their bad actions. This is as close to a political statement as I'll ever come to here. Just take a look at the Justice System. Enough said. As a former cop, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to arrest someone for GTA ( grand auto theft ) at 2 AM, book them, then arrest the same person for the same thing at 7 AM. It's the same feeling when I continually have to give way for rude and/or incompetent drivers. They do me wrong and continue on their merry way. No matter what they're driving.

In my world SUV's are the major offenders. Not the only ones, granted. When I see or hear something where a bad driver suffers a direct consequence of their stupid or overly aggessive behaviour I am going to rejoice. There's too little of it to waste. I don't see my attitude changing anytime soon. In the interest of clarity and justice, though, I will rephrase my comment.

I love it when bad things happen to bad drivers! ( whatever they drive )

Miles and smiles,


ps said...

There's also the perception that SUVs are built to handle slippery icy roads. It's not hindered by the vast number of advertisements showing 4WD SUVs plowing through snow drifts at low speed, and ... well, people get the wrong idea I guess.

Fortunately (for commuting) it doesn't snow much in central Illinois.

Aaron said...

Thank you for the clarification, Dan. I'm relieved that although I own a 4WD SUV, it's a Toyota. ;)

I did not take exception to your comment as much as I wanted to indicate that as a motorcycle owner, we're often at the mercy of stereotypes ourselves. I'm unsure if such a stereotype extends into the touring or cruising community, but as a sportbike owner, "we" are often loathed by our own kind (other motorcycle owners). Stereotypes will always exist, but the bad apples can fall from any tree.

Tinker said...

My wife drives an SUV, and as a matter of fact, she drives quite conservatively, almost to the point of timidity. I never paid any attention to your comments about SUV drivers, because I know how rare she is. Or maybe I just took them in the spirit in which they were made!

Steve Williams said...

I don't live in an area where traffic is congested. A five minute wait is considered a traffic jam. But I do run into bad drivers or all sorts. My observation is that the trouble drivers are the ones who are in a hurry. Their desire for forward motion at unreasonable speeds leads to bad decisions. Weaving, cutting off, not signalling, tailgating, all so they can rush to WalMart or the grocery store.

I try and tell myself they are surgeons rushing to save someone's life but too often I catch them at a traffic light and see a person behind the wheel staring straight ahead lost in thought and anywhere but behind the wheel. Or on the phone.

Where I do see SUV drivers being idiots is when there is snow on the road. Common sense would seem to cause one to slow down but not with these drivers. Safe with ABS and 4WD they increase speed. The worse the road the faster they go. All to get to WalMart.

There's nothing I can do. Gone are the days where I would consider (consider, not do) nipping off valve stems or adding Karo Syrup to the fuel supply. I just sigh and keep my distance and give way to the mad rush on the road.

I will admit a smile or two though when I see these vehicles off the road in a ditch or involved in fender benders....

dan_durham said...

I know people who drive the biggest vehicle they can afford to basically protect themselves from their own sloppy driving mistakes. I don't want to sound like I am pointing the finger at everyone who drives a big truck/SUV. However there is one person in particular I know who was in a serious accident that was their fault and they bought another Dodge monster truck mostly because it offered great protection in the crash due to it's size. The secondary reason was to use it to haul stuff...

As motorcycle riders, we are never guilty of this "I'm more important than you, you must yield to me or die" mentality.

On the other hand, it is America and I sincerely hope the freedom to drive what we choose is never taken away.

Combatscoot said...

A friend told me about a couple of Harley riders who nearly ran over the last few riders in his group coming out of the parking lot of a bar, then ran straight through the group to pass them. I don't know if I'd classify morons like that as motorcyclists, but they were RIDING motorcycles, and were using the "I'm more important than you" mentality"

Irondad said...

Looks like too many people believe the ad agencies, doesn't it?

What I take exception to is that some of the stereotyping is because of efforts by riders to present a certain image. ( cruisers, stunters, etc )Then they complain when they reap what they sow. Meanwhile, the fall-out goes everywhere. I got flipped off by a Harley rider when I passed them going the other way on my VFR. Divided we fall, I guess.

Being a rider, you know where I'm coming from!

Too many people are "destination" oriented whether in their vehicle or life in general. The "journey" suffers. They tend to not be able to focus on the "here and now". Sad. Hmmm, maybe an idea for a blog post.

I agree that the freedom in America shouldn't be diluted. On the other hand, I strongly believe in the corresponding "responsibility" to make sure we act competently. The government has the same "protect people from themselves" attitude. Instead of finding ways to make people better drivers they mandate more safety equipment. Seems backwards.

Unfortunately, imcompetence and stupidity knows no boundaries. It's everywhere, even on two wheels. I did a post a while back about how these Harley groups are even starting to distrust each other for exactly the reason of your comment. The competent Harley riders are having to watch their backs against those who aren't.