Rio Rider: To Each His Own

David Salter

It's very easy to become paranoid if one is a motorcycle rider. The slightest little miscalculation in traffic resulting in a collision with another vehicle or a fixed object can very well be serious if not fatal if one of those vehicles is a two wheeler. A four wheeled vehicle with it's virtual armored cage surrounds and protects the driver as long as speeds aren't too extreme. In such cases it is always the rider that comes out on the losing end while the driver of the cage almost always emerges without a scratch although somewhat bewildered and confused as in WHERE DID THAT MOTORCYCLE COME FROM?

A rear end collision among cars at a red light or one car pulling out in front of another at an intersection while illegal is usually just a topic of conversation at dinner time for both drivers involved and their families and a routine transaction for their insurance companies and the body shops that handle the business end of a wreck.

But if a motorcycle is involved it usually is a medical call. Sometimes the driver goes to jail when they are drunk as one did one Memorial Day not long ago after pulling out in front of a motorcycle. That was a small consolation to the rider who was life flighted to Peoria with a smashed face and broken leg. His black bandana was later picked up out of the road.

A little paranoia is healthy for riders.

That focuses attention and awareness and if acted upon by riding intelligently goes a long way in keeping out of trouble and out of the statistics columns. A vivid awareness of all the hazards out there that can bite the unwary and the complacent tends to keep the well adjusted rider attentive each time they don the gear and strap on their helmet preparatory to going out on a ride. They are far less likely to get hurt than one who just jumps on a bike and goes with little more thought than if they were driving a car.

So where do all the motorcycle injury and fatality statistics come from? Consider the following bad habits which place these riders at high risk each and every time they get on a motorcycle:

The rider who pulls up behind a vehicle stopped at a traffic signal and plants his front tire about a foot from the center of the bumper of the car in front of him and then stares intently at the light waiting for a change of color oblivious to all else. This rider has never considered what happens when the car, truck or motor home behind him fails to stop for what ever reason and clobbers him at high speed or even low speed pinning him or her against the vehicle in front of them. Rear end collisions at traffic signals happen all the time.

Putting your motorcycle one foot from the center of the bumper of the car in front of you leaves no room to escape a car coming up fast behind you assuming you are watching your mirrors and notice what is about to happen in the first place. Smart riders leave enough space between them and the car stopped in front of them in case they have to get out of the way quick. Really smart riders stack the deck even more in their favor by angling the bike slightly to either side to make it easier to get out of the way in a hurry and watching traffic behind intently.

Or consider the suave and debonair rider cruising up Henderson Street about one car length behind the car in front of him with his left hand on hip and elbow at a jaunty angle absolutely un prepared for any kind of sudden stop because the car or truck he is tail gating blocks his view of EVERY THING.

Smart Riders in traffic give vehicles in front of them lots and lots of room so they can do what ever they want in front of the rider without involving them in the accident. And the rider who has both hands on the controls ready to stop right now if need be has even more of an edge.

To compound these errors by not wearing any sort of protective gear at all is just asking for it. All too often they are obliged by an easily preventable accident with injuries sustained that would have been prevented or mitigated if they were wearing protective gear like a helmet, gloves and a leather jacket instead of just expensive sun glasses, T-shirt and a bandana.

Oh well. In the words of King Richard I, ''To each his own.''

These observations made today during a random 20 minute period on Henderson Street in Galesburg  should not be construed as any reason to pass yet another law that tries unsuccessfully to legislate safety. Safety is a state of mind and an intelligent one at that and not a matter of law in a free society.

And remember, in this County about one out of ten of your fellow citizens including those in traffic around you have an outstanding warrant. So if you are relying on the law for protection...