To dream an impossible dream?
by R. Bruce Thomas
Motorcycles are dangerous. Ask anyone. Ask your Mom.
The thing is, motorcycles are not dangerous. Granted, you can suffer greater injury if you are involved in a crash while riding a motorcycle than if you were in a car, but that doesn't make the motorcycle dangerous.
It seems to me that motorcycles are only dangerous in Canada and the United States.
Have a look at this picture.
It's not the best quality because it is a zoomed-in portion of a picture from my GoPro helmet cam taken during a ride in Mexico a few years ago. This bike is maybe 100 cc tops for an engine. Eldest child is sitting on the gas tank and has a helmet on. Dad is next and he is wearing a helmet although it looks like it might be on backwards or perhaps not a proper motorcycle helmet. He's also wearing shorts and flip flops. Mom is riding pillion, holding the youngest child. Neither are wearing helmets. The signal light is on to make the turn into the gas station so Dad is demonstrating safe riding skills.
Here's another picture from that same Mexican gas station.
Two women on a scooter. No gloves, one with bare arms but has a helmet, both in flip flops. At least they both have eye protection.
Gasp! Horror! Oh, the danger they are all in!
Well, actually, there are many parts of the world where these two photos indicate a normal part of everyday life. Cars are expensive and there isn't always room to park. A small motorcycle put to use as shared family transportation just makes sense.
And it proves that motorcycles aren't dangerous.
These busy parts of the world also seem to be home to car drivers who are aware of motorcycles, many having grown up riding their own, and so they are willing to share the road. And often, the roads don't have a lot of room for sharing.
I've felt safer riding a loaded sport-tourer, two-up, lane-splitting through London, Melbourne, and Los Angeles than I have riding solo in traffic through Toronto or Chicago. Is the motorcycle less dangerous in the former cities than in the latter? Not at all. Same bike, same rider. There is just a different set of rules in some civilized parts of the world where drivers have more awareness and respect for motorcyclists.
Japan elevates lane-splitting even more by having a stop-line for autos and a stop-line for bikes 15 feet further ahead. Light turns green and all the bikes clear out and more cars get through the light than if the bikes were taking up space in the lines. Proactively separating the traffic makes things safer for riders as well.
I would love to go back to Italy and ride through the streets of Rome. Having watched the almost ballet-like manner in which cars, motorcycles, and innumerable scooters share the roads with no blaring horns or people trying to cut off an easy access route, I found it all so amazingly mesmerizing and would love to go back and dance that dance.
I have a dream that one day motorcycles will not be viewed as dangerous, and people will not be afraid to get on and ride, and the "cagers", to use the derogatory term, don't treat the size and agility of a motorcycle as a threat to their use of the roadways. That, however, will take a huge change in behaviour and attitude on the part of riders and car drivers but, hey, a boy can dream.