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.
MOTORCYCLE SAFETY AWARENESS MONTH PROCLAMATION
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR STATE OF OREGON
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,