Friday, May 23, 2008

Capping off Motorcycle Awareness Month.

No photos this time. I just wanted to put down a few thoughts on Motorcycle Awareness Month now that's it's coming to a close. I've watched with interest what's gone on with press releases, discussion forums, etc. For some reason I feel sort of attacked as a rider. I would have thought it should be the other way around. Here's what's bothering me.

The whole tone seems to be one of making the best of a bad situation. Most of what I read tells me I'm part of a totally dangerous pursuit. What's more, they say I'm not really good at it. So much of the stuff published focuses on what riders are doing wrong. That we better work harder at getting it together. Here's another thing. Since you're going to crash anyway, we're going to work harder at making laws requiring safety gear, particularly helmets.

Then there's the perception from the car drivers around us. The tone's more like,

"These people are crazy and dangerous so you better look out for them!"

I know this is slightly exaggerated ( not that motorcyclists ever exaggerate, of course ) but you get my point.

Here's my thoughts on mandatory helmet laws. This is coming from someone whose passion for motorcycle rider training burns hotly. I'm sure trainers from other states who might be reading this will share my views. Whatever program we're currently teaching, our hearts are in the same place.

I'm an advocate for all the gear all the time. Laws or not, I'd wear a helmet. Not just any helmet, but a full face helmet. Whatever anyone says about helmets, I've seen too many severe facial injuries with riders wearing other types of helmets. What riders wear or not is their choice. My choice is based on my experience and I realize it's personal. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to make sure a rider's choice is based on accurate information instead of peer pressure. Nonetheless, once the rider makes a choice I will respect it. I want it on the record that I'm totally in the camp of full face helmet use. That way there's no misunderstanding of the next thing I'm going to write.

What gets me about the big push for helmet laws is that it's shooting for the wrong target. I think the big push should be making quality rider training more readily available. Maybe even subsidizing a large part of it. As a trainer, I'm busting my butt trying to help riders avoid accidents in the first place. The government seems to be concentrating on making riders have safer crashes instead. Do you see the conflict from my viewpoint?

Here's the other part that bothers me. Motorcycles are a viable alternative to cars. For many reasons which have already been discussed, bikes are actually a desirable change. It's better for the earth. Riding makes better use of our resources. I'd even go so far as to say there'd be a lot less road rage, a decrease in horrible driving habits, and so many more generally happy people. Yet, most of the press releases I've seen for Motorcycle Awareness Month totally get it backwards.

What should be out there is stuff that tells car drivers that motorcycles have just as much right to be on the roads as cars. The message should be that riders are people trying to make a difference in the world just as much as those who drive hybrid cars. These riders are people who sit in an office just down the hall from you. Just like you they worry about raising kids and paying bills. Even further, you should try riding to work yourself.

That's why the proclamation from Oregon's Governor warmed my heart. Of course, he was prompted by the director of our program and the state's traffic safety officials. Notice the tone of this statement and how it fits in with what I just wrote.



WHERAS: Oregon continues to be the national leader in motorcycle safety education; and

WHERAS: The Transportation Safety Division’s (ODOT) TEAM OREGON Motorcycle Safety Program was recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the most outstanding state motorcycle rider training program in the nation; and

WHEREAS: Education and safe riding habits are worthy of special recognition; and

WHEREAS: It is important that the citizens of our state should be aware of motorcycles on the highways and recognize the importance of sharing the roadway with these fuel-efficient vehicles: and

WHEREAS: Motorists should have special awareness of the vulnerability of motorcyclists; and

WHEREAS: The designation of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month promotes public awareness of the energy-efficient motorcycle and its proper and safe use on the roads and highways of Oregon.

NOW,THEREFORE, I Theodore R. Kulongoski, Governor of the State of Oregon, hereby proclaim May 2008 to be

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY AWARENESS MONTH in Oregon and encourage all Oregonians to join in this observance.

Now that's what I'm talking about! This proclamation captures the spirit of what riding to work is all about. Notice the proper emphasis on rider training and the value of our fuel efficient mounts?

Further, there was a press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation. This release carries a similar tone with more detail. You can read it here. Gives a whole new meaning to Share the Road, doesn't it?

Ok. This post has gotten quite long. I just wanted to get this off my chest. Be proud of riding. Even more so if you ride to work despite inclement weather. You're doing a noble thing. Not to mention a really, really, fun thing!

Miles and smiles,



Stacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacy said...

Compare Oregon's announcement with this one from Iowa:

Iowa DOT announcement

I read somewhere else that this May is shaping up to be "Chastise Motorcyclists Month". Sure sounds like it! (The word "morgue" in the URL is also a nice touch.)

R.G. said...

I have three helmets. Full, 3/4 and half. I agree completely that full is the best option,however as the weather warms up I find that the less helmet the more enjoyable the ride. It's a trade off I'm willing to make and accept full responsiblity for.

Conchscooter said...

The more complex, thoughful choice will always lose out when the mass of people decide they "need to do something." Then they blame the lawmakers they elect for making simplistic choices. Even Florida (optional helmets for over 21) is going to require new endorsement applicants to go to a riding school. Finally.

irondad said...

That was Wendy Moon's blog, I'm sure. We actually ended up with nearly identical posts. You can check her blog at

Like I said, everyone needs to decide for themselves. We just quietly and respectfully agree to disagree.

There's a lot of knee jerk reactions by lawmakers in response to pressure. Other decisions are better. Oregon, too, is considering mandatory training for all riders.

Take care,


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Yesterday at work I was watching a boy a little younger than my son [who is now 10, oh my gosh] riding a bicycle that was too big for him... without a helmet, and with Grandma watching.

As I went by one time, I stopped and told Grandma, "I have a helmet my son has outgrown. Would you like me to bring it for him on Tues.?"

"Oh, he has one," she says, "he just doesn't like to wear it."

"Too bad," says I. (Yes, I really did.) "Ya gotta wear a seatbelt, ya gotta wear a helmet, ya gotta wear a lifejacket. Hey, kid, would you like to see my motorcycle helmet?"

So we had a nice discussion about needing to wear helmets to be safe, so he didn't scramble his brain like an egg. (A visual he can understand.)

"as the weather warms up I find that the less helmet the more enjoyable the ride"

I chose a helmet that's comfortable year-round, so I wouldn't be tempted not to wear it, or to wear something less protective. My Shoei has very good air flow over the top of my head when the vents are open. Yes, those little tiny holes make a big difference.

R.G. said...

Okay, I thought I qualified my comment by saying "I agree, full face is best". I just believe that we all make decisions regarding our safety everyday. Skateboarding, skydiving, Heck even what we eat or drink. Everything we do has a degree of risk. I don't mean to get on a soap box here but at some point a person has to stop managing thier life and start living it.

Earl Thomas said...

It's interesting that your observation was much like mine this month.

I posted a mild rant on my blog a few days ago about non-riding folks and their opinions towards motorcycles just to get it off of my chest.

Motorcycling has been such a positive experience personally my whole life and yet, non-riders continue to try to convince me how negative it all really is, I pity them.

Phil Summers said...

Earl said,
Motorcycling has been such a positive experience personally my whole life and yet, non-riders continue to try to convince me how negative it all really is, I pity them.

I was one of those! Only until I got some silly urge at age 63 did I take the MSF course only to learn that if you don't do booze, wear a helmet and gear than the risks become acceptable.
I have put 19000 wonderful miles on my scooter in the last year. Only excitement was hitting a deer doing 55. I had time to think of all the instructions during the MSF course and kept the bike up and running. The deer was not so lucky.
Dan, I read your blog and find it like taking CEU's. I often think about how you would handle a particular situation when I am out riding.
One more thing...I don't go along with the "there are only two kinds of riders", I think skills will keep you from being the second type!
Thanks for a great blog

Phil Summers
Freeport FL

irondad said...

Speaking up in a tactful manner is what I do, also. At least if someone makes an alternate choice we know we made the effort.

That's always the balance, isn't it? Managing it versus living it.

Sometimes negative comments aren't a statement of what the observer actually believes. Comments can mask jealousy, like when they can't just step out and do something that smacks of adventure. There's other things but I take it as an effort to bring me down to their level since they can't rise to mine. Helps a lot!

I'm so pleased you found the enlightment for yourself! You get it exactly. None of us can become bulletproof but we can certainly do a lot to take care of ourselves.

Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I'm hoping CEU's are continuing eduation updates or something similar and not a drug!

Take care,


Dru said...

You actually nailed the real issue on the head, and it doesn't effect only motorcycles.

ARound the US, the legislation is consistently to make stupid actions safer and not to make education and safer actions the priority. Look at cars, they are heavier, reinforced, all have seatbelts, most have airbags, and we continue to legislate laws to make things better for the 'victims', while we refrain from education.

The situation for riders is worse, because we are more exposed (and the human nature to retain the actions of the bad, and ignore the actions of the good) we all get lumped in with the stupid and the same legislation goes into the mix. Make it safer to be ignorant rather then educate to make safer decisions.

I personally believe that the MSF / BRC classes should be required of ALL drivers, not just riders. Pass or Fail, the experience should help educate everyone for both 2 and 4 wheeled driving, making for safer roads. The costs of paying for those classes far outweighs the cost of enacting useless legislation and making it easier for the insurance companies to profit off the situation.

Yes it bugs me, but I have no interest in political office and the insurance companies have deeper pockets than the riders.

Heinz & Frenchie said...

We stumbled on an article called "The Biker" and posted it on our blog on Wednesday, April 23rd. We thought it was a great statement. Check it out...