Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Two wrongs don't make a right
Here at ye ole' Superbike Blog, we are sometimes criticized as being anti-law enforcement. I personally feel like that reputation is undeserved, because it presumes that no matter what LEOs do, this blog is against everything they stand for. This is most assuredly not the case. When a cop bravely pulls a motorist out of burning vehicle, catches a robber, or snipes a hostage taker during a standoff, we should all be proud and thankful. And if those were the types of activities police engaged in exclusively, you'd never read a negative word about them on this blog.
Unfortunately though, we all understand that the average beat cop spends the majority of his shift, not catching murderers and rapists, but acting as either an agent of the citation industry or an enforcer of unjust/unconstitutional law. This effort is sometimes directed at motorcyclists, who have always been seen by cops as easy enforcement targets -- especially sportbikers. When such a situation occurs, you'll usually read something negative about police on this blog. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. In a system where our modern-day government owns a monopoly on both official force and lawmaking, corruption therein is naturally rampant, and this blog will always scream loudly in pointing out violations of natural liberty as they relate to motorcycling.
That said, there are certain actions by motorcyclists the Superbike Blog looks down strongly upon regardless of the circumstances, and one of them is blatantly running from police.
Now mind you, we're not talking about occasional jackrabbiting when you think a cop might decide to turn around and contact you. We mean instigating a full-on chase by going into warp drive when a cop is directly behind you -- lights on and sirens wailing. This is dumb, dangerous, and gives all of motorcycling a black eye regardless of the outcome. Here are a few things to consider the next time you see red-and-blues in your mirrors and feel the urge to flee.
It's 2008, everything's a felony. Well, not everything, but damn-near. And here in Texas, that includes evading police. The story's the same in a lot of other states, too. Now, should running from the cops put you in the same criminal category as a pedophile, you ask? Of course not, but keep in mind that common sense, reason, and honesty are not traits required to be a legislator. Without argument, such penalties are plainly unjust, but are all the more reason to perform a quick cost-to-benefit analysis before you twist the throttle. Realistically, you need to decide whether or not attempting to get out of a 400-dollar ticket is worth potentially spending the rest of your life as a felon should you get caught.
If the cop does something stupid and hurts himself, you'll probably be held responsible. This is another sign-of-the-times trend that's sweeping the nation. More and more states are passing legislation that holds the runner accountable for any boneheaded decision the officer might make that subsequently results in his injury or death. That means if he can't drive very well or makes a tactical mistake, you'll pick up the tab for his ineptitude. Again, if you'll just stop and think about it, beating a 400-dollar ticket -- or even an impound -- isn't worth potentially going to jail for causing the death of a police officer, especially if it was his own fault.
Chances are, there's someone who'd miss you very much. If you have a spouse, a child, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister -- think about what they'd have to go through emotionally if you died in such a meaningless, sensational way. Your chances of being killed after engaging police in a high-speed chase are very high, and your untimely departure from this plane into the next would leave a great big 'you-shaped' hole in the hearts of those you love. Use discretion and live another day, even if it means having to pad Johnny Law's pension a little.
An appeal to fear is usually the sign of a weak argument
From the mailbag. A reader finds a website filled with disturbing images of motorcycle crashes and incident statistics:
"Hi Tim, I read your superbike blog about once a week. I ride and have ridden bikes for the past 15-20 years. I recently found a website that I must say affected me a little bit. I respect your opinion and was wondering if you have ever seen this site. It is www.[omitted].com. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend you check it out. Please look over the entire site. I am interested in what you think the actual point the webmaster is trying to get across. In one sense I think he is pro motorcycle but then he comes across as anti motorcycle. Anyway, love the blog, hope to hear from you soon."
Wayne - Cincinnati, OH
That website has been around for years, and is -- in my opinion -- clearly biased against motorcycling. While some of the stats its author uses to bolster his/her positions are correct, many are misrepresented.
For just one example, the claim that moto-accidents have increased 47 percent over the last five years is likely true. But what isn't mentioned is that the number of new motorcyclists (many of whom are young and/or untrained) has increased dramatically during that time, as well. With motorcycling at a 25-year high in popularity, simple probability tells us that more riders equals more accidents.
As for all the graphic imagery -- it is what it is, but to me has little significance beyond its shock value. If you wanted to, you could just as easily put together a big, bloody webpage urging people not to ride in cars, fly in jetliners, or work in the oilfield. The world is a dangerous place and we are imperfect beings who will, at times, make mistakes. You can make anything look terrifying if you place it into the right context.
In closing, I'll offer the following statistic for some hopefully encouraging perspective: Each year in the US, 50 percent more people die of the flu and pneumonia than die in vehicle crashes, and motorcycle wrecks only account for about 9 percent of said vehicle crashes on average. Being exposed to a higher level of risk than a car driver is something motorcyclists must accept. But once accepted, successfully managing that risk through good decision-making and skill-building is a reliable, fun way to enjoy a lifetime of joy through motorcycling.
Don't let the shock merchants get you down.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
US motorcycle sales down in 2007 for the first time in 15 years
Well, it finally happened. According to a report recently issued by the Motorcycle Industry Council, the first recent lag in annual domestic motorcycle sales happened in 2007. Final numbers aren't available yet, but I have to wonder if this slowdown is the first harbinger of the average Joe's interest in motorcycles starting to wane.
Motorcycling in pop culture reached a cult-like status in the 2000s with the cable TV-driven rise of celebrity bike builders and superbike roadracing. But I've noticed that the novelty is apparently starting to wear off as far as the general public is concerned. Shows like American Chopper have been bumped from constant rotation on the Discovery Channel and subsequently relegated to once-a-week airings on TLC. The TV bike building competitions have also disappeared, and moto-celebs like Jesse James and Arlen Ness seem to be fading back into obscurity.
As for racing, I don't know what to think yet. Speed Channel used to dedicate its entire Tuesday night prime time lineup to motorcycle racing replays and niche lifestyle shows, but the vast majority of those programs are now gone, too.
The popularity of motorcycles in the US has always ebbed and flowed with the culture and fashion of the time. In 1973, 1.6 million new motorcycles were sold here. Nineteen years later, that number had dwindled to approximately 280,000. In 2007, we're back up to 2.5 million, including ATVs, off-road bikes, and scooters. Maybe we're finally heading back into the valley after reaching an early 21st-century peak.
All in all, that may not be a bad thing for those of us who are serious, lifelong motorcyclists. We tend to lose fewer rights and are generally subjected to less hassle from the public, our legislators, and law enforcement in periods of regression.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Want to be dangerous? Ride and drive slower!
I was listening to my favorite radio station this morning, and the hosts got onto the topic of driving and speed limits. And like most Americans, the Morning Musers have been successfully programmed to think that all speed limits are good, and that speed kills. Granted, this type of thinking is common amoungst the fear-stricken, nanny-state softies known as modern Americans, but it upset me nonetheless. So, in the spirit of dispelling some of the lies being fed to us by legislators and law enforcement, I offer the following information. Hat tip to the National Motorist Association for some of the material below:
Firstly, slower isn't always safer. Federal and state studies have consistently shown that the drivers most likely to get into accidents in traffic are those traveling significantly below the average speed. According to an Institute of Transportation Engineers Study, those driving 10 mph slower than the prevailing speed are six times as likely to be involved in an accident that someone driving 10 mph over. That means that if the average speed on an interstate is 70 mph, the person traveling at 60 mph is far more likely to be involved in an accident than someone going 70 or even 80 mph.
Secondly, most drivers won't intentionally put themselves into perceived danger. People generally will not go faster than what they feel is comfortable and safe, regardless of the posted speed limit. For example, an 18-month study following an increase in the speed limit along the New York Thruway (from 55 to 65 mph), determined that the average speed of traffic, 68 mph, remained the same. Even a national study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration also concluded that raising or lowering the speed limit had practically no effect on actual travel speeds.
Lastly, the assertion that most accidents are caused by speeding is incorrect. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that 30 percent of all fatal accidents are "speed-related," this is misleading. This only means that (in less than a third of the cases) one of the drivers involved in the accident was "assumed" to be exceeding the posted limit to some degree. It does not mean that speeding caused the accident. Research conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation showed that the percentage of accidents actually caused by speeding is very low, 2.2 percent. Speed is an unfortunate catch-all excuse by law enforcement, because an object must be in some degree of motion in order to crash into something else. Therefore "speed" can be said by the non-reputable to be the "cause" of every accident, or "a contributing factor".
Our nation's traffic fatality rate (deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is the lowest it has ever been. This in an age when cars and motorcycles are faster than ever. Enforcement of artificially low speed limits is little more than a revenue generation tool for government, and -- as the science shows -- does nothing to improve safety.