This bold title might seem extremely selfish and self-centered… but give it a chance. I promise I have a valid point here. I want to stop for a moment and point out a huge flaw within our motorcycle community, family, industry and whatever else you want to call it. I see it way too often and although it sounds good, it is missing a huge piece of the puzzle.
“Look twice, save a life. Motorcycles are everywhere.” – Now, of course, I love this slogan. It’s short, direct, and easy to understand. People get it, and that’s what we need. However, there is a large piece of information we are ignoring if the message ends there. What is it, you ask? It’s the part of the equation where motorcyclists are just as responsible for themselves on the road, if not more. I tend to lean toward the “more” side of things. Here’s why: we know the cars aren’t looking for us. That’s given by the fact that we felt the need to come up with a catchy tune to make drivers more aware of our presence. If you’ve ever taken a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course, you should remember that one of the risks involved with riding a motorcycle is that we are darn near invisible to other drivers. We know to look out for bikes when we are in our cars, but even then, it is a conscious effort we make in order to “seek out” motorcycles on the road. It is easy to miss us, that’s the whole story.
Rather than embracing this fact and dealing with it by adjusting our riding styles, bike colors, gear colors, emergency strategies and attitudes, we choose to blame the drivers. Oh how often I have heard: “That lady pulled out right in front of me!” “He wasn’t even looking!” “She looked right at me and still didn’t see me!” “He had to have known I was next to him!” And the list goes on… so when does our responsibility as riders kick in? When do we admit: “I should have known she wouldn’t see me.” “I was right in his blind spot.” “I was going too fast to react in time.” You never hear something like that from a rider, so you would think every accident was some jerk of a driver’s fault. That is just not the case.
When was the last time you went to a parking lot to practice quick stops? Do you instinctively use both brakes correctly, or have you let yourself get into the habit of using only your front or rear? Do you know how your body will react if and when a car pulls out in front of you? We must remember that we can train ourselves on what to do in an emergency. It is up to us to expect the car to pull out in front of us, to expect the guy on his cell phone to change lanes right where we happen to be riding, to know that she honestly can’t see us hiding there by the curb. It is up to us to become aware of our location on the road, think about what we might look like (or not like like) to the cars around us, and put ourselves in the best position to avoid an emergency situation altogether. We need more of “us” and less of “them” out here.
The next time you swing your leg over, I dare you to take responsibility for the way you are riding and the way the cars around you are reacting to your presence. Do whatever you can to make yourself seen, but know that despite your best efforts, drivers are more than likely going to miss you. Expect it to happen before it even does. And please, by all means, pay attention.
I have revised the slogan I mentioned before into two parts that I think complete puzzle, where before it was lacking.
Drivers: Look Twice, Save a Life – Motorcycles are Everywhere!
Riders: Think Twice, Save YOUR Life – No one is Looking Out for You!
We can ALL benefit from slowing down a little and taking a second look… PAY ATTENTION on the road. Ride safe, ride hard, ride well.