Unwarranted Motorcycle Hate

When a car collides with a motorcycle, the accident is often blamed on the motorcyclist. This is bullshit. Because most motorcycle accidents involving a vehicle happen because the vehicle operator was NOT PAYING ATTENTION and did not see the motorcyclist. This is gross negligence on the part of the driver. Saying “I didn’t see the motorcycle” is no excuse. The cop doesn’t let you get off the ticket when you say “I didn’t see the stop sign” does he?

This scenario was just played up by LA Times writer Ralph Vartabedian in his sensationalist anti-motorcyclist “article”.

I’m not even going to start dissecting this piece of propaganda, because Moonrider has already done this in 4,769 words. In a nutshell this accident happened because the car driver made an ILLEGAL LEFT TURN, putting her car in the direct path of the motorcycle thereby KILLING THE MOTORCYCLIST (she died one month later). It was HER ACTION that killed the motorcyclist. Not the hyperbole speeding of the motorcyclist.

Instead of blaming the motorcyclist, because that is the sensationalist cheap shot in this equation, Mr Vartabedian should look at what was distracting the driver? Cell phone, eating, rushing and any myriad of other activities people do when they are supposed to be driving. Maybe he can think about that the next time he is multi-tasking in his car. Because you rarely see a motorcyclist talking on their cell phone, fumbling with the radio and eating a burger at the same time.

At the end of the road motorcycles, get there faster and more efficiently. And not because the riders have a death wish and are speed demons. Motorcycles are better for the environment and better for traffic. Taking a cheap shot at them, when every trip could mean death by some clueless idiot, is uneducated and unacceptable.

23 Replies to “Unwarranted Motorcycle Hate”

  1. “On average, motorcyclists are 34 times more likely to die per mile traveled than occupants of cars, and it’s getting worse. Over the last decade, the fatality rate per motorcycle mile has jumped 76%. That reflects an emerging motorcycle culture that embraces every possible danger factor: extreme speed, reckless behavior, alcohol impairment and many older riders past their prime, says Champagne.”

    What the hell. I was just in traffic school this Saturday and my instructor commented on how the fatalities of motorcyclists are going up due to the negligence of the car drivers…not the cyclist. I don’t see too many motorcyclists who speed over 50 and I’ve driven about 75,000 miles in the last three years…But he also said usually in an accident the driver of the car is put at fault..

  2. Do your motorcyclists in USA ride with low beam headlight on throughout the day? It helps massively with visibility. This spread to UK from the Continent. We have to be realistic and recognise that it is very easy to miss seening a bike, motor or pedal. I motorcycled from 1975 to 1982. I am back on the push bike now. Cy Quick at mydigest.wordpress.com

  3. well, why would you even drive such a dangerous thing? its too powerful to drive in city streets (you put peds at danger, and the noice is offensive to all, not to mention that a cycle is still too bulky to safely dodge car doors and cross walks the way a bike is) and its too dangerous for the open road (why anyone would want to travel over 50 miles an hour and think a leather jacket will save you is beyond me!) Oh wait, I know why cycles are popular, because you can break the law on a regular basis, like driving in emergency lanes, parking on sidewalks, weaving in between lanes, and speeding speeding speeding. Why am I supposed to look out for you?

  4. As a past motorcyclist and one almost killed t-boning a car whose driver made an illegal turn directly into my 40-mph path I can certainly attest to the institutional bias motorcyclists must deal with, and I understand the aggravation that stems from it. I just don’t see with respect to this specific tragedy cited in the LAT’s article what’s accomplished by rationalizing its responsibility away from the operator of the motorcycle to that of the car.

    Sure the writer pegged the piece on that one horrible accident, but if the motorcyclist in that accident was traveling the reported 80-100 mph in a 25 mph zone (or even “just” 60 in a 40 mph zone as Moonrider contends) it seems odd to shift blame primarily to the driver.

    Moonrider writes: “…had Boren been going the speed limit, there would be no question about who was at-fault at all.” That may be true, but if the motorcyclist had been going the speed limit there stood a very good chance of there being no collision at all.

    I’m certainly in agreement that the motorcycling is a more efficient and enviromentally beneficial mode of transport than cars and I concur that the article implies unfairly that the majority of motorcyclists are speed freaks.” In reality there are far more motorcyclists that are safety concious than there aren’t.

  5. Cy, yes, motorcyclists here use headlights at all times. It helps, but only so much.

    N/A, most of the activities you describe are explicitly legal. You’re supposed to look out for cyclists because driving a car is operating a deadly weapon in any case and doing so without regards for your fellow man makes you a sick f*ck.

    Motorcycles are very dangerous. I would have second thoughts about riding in a car that didn’t have seatbelts. I’d refuse to ride in a car that didn’t have doors. No way in hell I’d ride in a car where you sit on the roof straddling the gas tank between your legs.

  6. Sam – the data can be correct regardless of who is at fault. At the end of the day, a dead motorcyclist is a dead motorcyclist, whether he/she was speeding or the car turned in front or whatever.

    If the kid was really driving that fast, would she have been able to see him when making a turn, legal or not? Her illegal turn doesn’t absolve the motorcyclist of responsibility anymore than his speed absolves her. However, let’s not insult the laws of physics by implying that his speed didn’t like condemn them both to death – a very, very unpleasant death in her case.

    I find it hard to work up too much empathy for motorcyclists. I look out for all road hazards when I’m driving – pedestrians, stray cats, cyclists, and motorcycles. I maintain a regular visual search pattern. I minimize distractions. But you know what, a slim, fast moving, bike is never going to be as easy to see as regular, four-wheeled car. Especially when it drives where we wouldn’t expect to find a car – like between two slow moving lanes of highway traffic.

    “I didn’t see it” may not be a legal excuse – as in something that exuses culpability, but it sure as hell is a good reason – and a truthful one in many cases. Yes, yes, maybe this lady was applying mascara while talking on a cell phone and getting in a quick snack between channel surfing on the old XM. But I doubt it. Obeying speed laws gives people time to react to situations. Driving over 80 removes that time to react, especially when it’s out of context on surface streets.

    I hardly think the writer’s “sensationalism” is any more sensationalized than this post.

  7. When I was a wee litte guy, we had a neighbor that had a bike. I used to run up and say “Motor Cycle Man!! Motor Cycle Man!!” Once he scooped me up, sat me down on the seat and revved the engine. I cried my eyes out.

    I love motor bikes today but wouldn’t have one L.A. No way.

    The motorcycle man lost his life in North Dakota a few years ago. A senior citizen motorist pulled out onto a highway knocking himself and his passenger off of his bike. He was killed instantly. His passenger walked away from the accident.

    Hey anybody want to start a thread on crappy senior drivers??? Be careful out there…..

  8. Will, my issue with this article is that it is sensationalism against motorcyclists. This is the kind of crap that gets published and the masses read, believe and agree to the erroneous assumption of the article’s author that every motorcyclist is a sport bike speeding maniac. This is not true. Yes, there are the speed freaks, but you see the same type driving all fast and furiously in four wheels. This article perpetuates the incorrect view of most motorcyclists.

    n/a, you ask why would people drive such a dangerous thing? You might ask yourself why do people drive Hummers and huge SUVs? Why do people smoke or drink or do any myriad of things that other people JUDGE BAD? Because we have some freedoms left in this country. Riding a motorcycle is one of them. Don’t make the assumption that all bikes speed machines. They’re not.

    There is a sense of freedom you have from riding a motorcycle down an open road. And I wouldn’t be surprised if bicyclists feel this as well. It’s being aware of your environment beyond the automobile cage.

    Instead of being pissed at the motorcyclists passing you using the HOV lanes or lane splitting be grateful they aren’t in cars sitting in front of you.

    Where did tolerance go?

  9. Everyone knows that newspaper writers have templates they follow. It wouldn’t be a very interesting/sensational article if it described a fatal accident where everyone was going the speed limit and there was no explosion. Let’s not fault journalists for being journalists.

    We ought to focus on the small percentage of “bad apple” riders who endanger themselves, the public as well as the reputation of law-abiding motorcyclists. Reading a story about guy on a GSX-R going 80 in a 25 zone creates a mental image that leads to a negative stereotype of all bikers as speed freaks and daredevils.

    We should not pretend that the Evel Knievels don’t exist in LA. I routinely see motorcyclists performing outrageous stunts on city streets and some even document it on the web: http://cockyridaz.net

  10. Motorcycles are NOT dangerous. If they are dangerous, then they are no more dangerous than knives, power saws, guns, and thousands of other dangerous tools that people use all the time.

    The only difference is, when some idiot drops a power saw on his foot, you don’t have leagues of mental baboons trying to outlaw power saws. When someone throws a knife and injures a friend or family member, you don’t get legislation to outlaw knives.

    Only with guns and motorcycles is the blame placed on the device, a mere tool with no morality or intelligence beyond that of the wielder. Simply positing such an argument is grounds for dismissal of your right to breed, because you’ve openly disregarded the most powerful tool in the world, your brain.

    There is no record of any motorcycle causing another vehicle to crash. Check lexis nexus if you don’t believe it. Never any reported case of any such accident. Yet, motorcycles are repeatedly hyped as dangerous. Yes, they can fall over, but so can skis, roller blades, and any other biped transit. Yes, they can go fast, but so can many other vehicles.

    The truth is that few motorcycles can even reach 150 miles per hour. The average bike, not the expensive crotch-rockets that some people show off but the typical motorcycle being used to commute to work, is driven at an average speed of only 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. Cars average 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Face it, almost everyone speeds.

    You only remember the bikes that pass you. You forget about all the Goldwings and Harleys that you pass. You seeth and berate the bikes that pass you by before you even realize they were there. You completely ignore the daily commuter who stays way behind you for many miles, watching your weaving and random lane changes.

    Yet, it is the motorcyclist who pays the ultimate price for your casual neglect, your moment of stupidity, or their own mistakes. If you bump another car on the freeway, you can pull over and exchange info, and be on your way. The cyclist is dead if that happens. So, motorcyclists tend to have far FEWER accidents than auto drivers do, because we usually only get into ONE. The last one.

    I only ride off-road now. I won’t ride on the streets because the cops won’t let me shoot the a$$hat$ that try to kill me with their cars. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been hit twice and I’m still alive. And, I’m one of very few drivers who watches where the bikers go and leave them room. You all leave room for the SUVs, the Truckers, and anyone bigger than you are, but the intentional oversight of ‘not noticing’ the motorcyclist is more ego than blindness.

  11. Liquid Premium, of course the cocky ridaz exist. But my issue is not with them. Yes, they exist I am not in denial about that. But they are not the ONLY riders. For every crazy motorcyclist there are many more responsible riders out there. And many of them ride extremely fast bikes – but not to their limit.

    Don Lee – Right on! I completely agree.

    I once told someone how scary it was to lane split. She confided in me that lane splitters scared her and that she thought of opening her car door on them. I was shocked that she said this to my face and told her that she may well open her door on me and seriously injure me.

    The fucking gall of her, thinking she has the right to use her car as a weapon against another driver. I wanted to pummel her.

  12. There are irresponsible car drivers just as there are irresponsible motorcyclists. Whenever there’s some sensational news story about a senior driver who causes an accident, everyone says that seniors should face more rigorous driving rules which is ridiculous. Isolating one group as irresponsible or at fault is just plain stupid.

  13. hey, don’t trip if the laws haven’t changed since 1991, the last time I was hit by a car turning left in front of me (twice), the cager will get seriously penalized. More so with a good lawyer, which is easy enough to find, since it’s clearly the car’s fault. this is the most common type of multi-vehicle motorcycle crash.

    Yes, people are incredibly stupid and most of them should not be allowed to drive. Yet I have survived 21 years of urban riding because I accept this fact and do my best to anticipate their stupidest possible moves before they even know they want to make them.

    Suz

  14. oh, forgot to add: what helps is looking at what I can do differently after each crash, to prevent it happening again. There’s always something I can do to prevent a crash.

    Yes, most US bikers ride with high beams on during the day, which helps. Riding a big, fast (capable of well over 150 based on personal (track) experience, thank you very much) bike with 4 headlights helps, since the vintage Italian scooters I was t-boned on always looked slower than they were.

  15. “Instead of being pissed at the motorcyclists passing you using the HOV lanes or lane splitting be grateful they aren’t in cars sitting in front of you.”

    Frankly, I envy them their mobility in situations like that.

    I also make sure to move over a touch and give them room when I see them coming from behind–yeah, mirrors, foreign concept to most idiot drivers. Occasionally, if it’s safe, the rider will quickly wave thanks. Kind of a nice way to build good faith in both directions.

  16. Well, I’m fine with the journalistic criticism. It certainly does seem to be an imbalanced piece, but the story was about motorcycle accidents and fatalities rising–the anecdote was a hook. It seems like too much of the criticism is going towards the sensationalism of that aspect.

    As for whether or not motorcyclists are any more reckless than anyone else, my gut tells me they are slightly more reckless (this is a self-selected population who have all chosen a much riskier method of transportation), but we’re all overly comfortable and reckless on the road. So, as we make the passenger compartments of cars and trucks safer, what’s being done for motorcyclists?

    I don’t think you’d like my article any better, though. I’d want to analyze the sensibility of laws allowing motorcycles to do this incredibly dangerous lane-sharing, I’d want to know if the “freedom” of riding with minmal protection is worht the additional risks and costs to society.

    I think the costs are more than just the ones this reporter gave. I sat on a jury once for a traffic accident between a car and a motorcycle. The motorcyclist naturally sustained greater injuries because he was in an inherently less protecting vehicle. But, the driver had to pay all those increased costs of the rider’s risktaking. I say “all” because even though we agreed on a 50/50 split on responsibility, once the jury members figured out that would reduce the motorcyclist’s cash prize, we were suddenly 9/3 in favor of 100% liability for the driver. (There was also race and class involved in this case as the driver was an upper middle class professional and the rider was a much poorer laborer.) Just the same, though, the rider knowingly took on additional risk and the driver paid.

  17. I rode a sportbike on the streets of L.A. for a couple years and can honestly say it made me a much better driver. The experience made me more cautious, more attentive, more responsible, and more considerate when driving a bike or car. Always made it a point to wave a quick ‘thank you’ to all the good drivers who were actually paying attention. I was nearly knocked off the road by a big haired Lexus SUV driving lady yapping on her phone and applying make up as she merged into me in the carpool lane without once glancing to the side or looking at any of her mirrors. Mind you I had actually been cruising at a decent speed enjoying an early ride. Thankfully that powerful engine everyone is so quick to condemn was the only thing that kept me alive as I accelerated quick enough to avoid becoming a stain on the center divider.

  18. ” laws allowing motorcycles to do this incredibly dangerous lane-sharing, I’d want to know if the “freedom” of riding with minmal protection is worht the additional risks and costs to society.”

    Yeah, well, those of us who carry insurance (health and driving) aren’t a burdent to society. We pay MORE for driving insurance because we are at a higher risk. Try insuring a GSXR1000 and being a male under 25. It costs more than the bike. The ones who ride w/out insurance then go to county hospital, well yes, they’re stupid and a tax burden. But then so are all the illegal immigrants who fill up county hospital.

    Lanesharing is not even a tenth as dangerous as crossing an intersection. riding between 2 lanes of slow or stopped cars is totally safe. When I was doored going about 20 mph, I got a bruise on my leg and rode home. If a car changes lanes in front of you, even when you’re moving at 60mph, even if you weren’t attentive enough to see it coming, it’s a broadside and you’re likely to just lose your balance and fall. Which on most LA freeways means falling onto the hood of the car in the next lane. Big whoop.

    Riding in city traffic (SF, LA and NYC) for the past 21 years, I constantly split, and give a thumbs up to people who move aside. Whenever I try to be patient and sit in traffic, someone does something REALLY stupid, so I have found it safer to just keep moving. The only crashes I have had (and the Harry Hurt report which analyzed m/c crashes supports this) were at intersections. Any time you have people wanting to cross each others paths it’s more dangerous.

    I would seriously rather die or be permanently disabled riding to work than sit in a fucking pathetic steel cage in line with a bunch of other lemmings every day of my life. As was famously said a million times: “I will not tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death!”

  19. Rob B, just because I choose a mode of transport with fewer safety features does not mean I am reckless in traffic. It means I am confident in my abilities to safely operate this machine. There are way too many car drivers who are not operating their machines safely. Car accidents happen all the time, drivers aren’t focused on driving. Some drunk celebrity just killed a 17 year old and critically injured a 15 year old. Lets get bad drivers off the road, then we’ll talk about those far fewer reckless bike riders.

  20. As I said, I think we all behave a little recklessly. Logic tells me that motorcycle riders are probably slightly more reckless as a whole than the general population (based simply on the fact that they’ve made one significant riskier choice). I really do mean the slightly part, though. I agree that there is aggression and recklessness in all the lanes.

  21. I would seriously rather die or be permanently disabled riding to work than sit in a fucking pathetic steel cage in line with a bunch of other lemmings every day of my life. As was famously said a million times: “I will not tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death!”

    Wow. Right there. That’s all the reasoning I need to confirm why I don’t ride a motorcycle and why I question the minds of those who do. My godfather rides. A good friend from school does. But regardless of who out there is the worst driver – the car driver or the motorcyclist – when you break down the physics of things, going fast with no steel cage means you face potentially far graver injuries. While life is meant to be lived, I think it’s stupid to take such chances, and really, really stupid, to talk as if getting tossed of a bike onto the hood of another moving automobile is no big thang.

    I’ll take my pathetic steel cage because I love people and have people who love me and want me to come home at night. With my mind and body intact.

    You can ride your bike, that’s fine, I don’t want to take it from you. But I think you sound stupid when you criticize as lemmings those of us who paid attention in physics class and value our lives.

  22. A car is easily capable of 80mph. If a 4-door family sedan had plowed into her at the same place, I seriously doubt he would be on the same campaign against 4-door family sedans.

    Stereotyping does not make for journalistic integrity.

  23. TO THE A$$clown that said this comment

    “well, why would you even drive such a dangerous thing? its too powerful to drive in city streets (you put peds at danger, and the noice is offensive to all, not to mention that a cycle is still too bulky to safely dodge car doors and cross walks the way a bike is) and its too dangerous for the open road (why anyone would want to travel over 50 miles an hour and think a leather jacket will save you is beyond me!) Oh wait, I know why cycles are popular, because you can break the law on a regular basis, like driving in emergency lanes, parking on sidewalks, weaving in between lanes, and speeding speeding speeding. Why am I supposed to look out for you?”

    all i have to say is that anything can speed from a Geo to a Ferrari!, anything from a GEO to a Ferrari can weave in and out of traffic, and YOU break the law on a regular basis. and why should you watch out for us? well why should i watch out for you when you j-walk? better double check next time you cross the road w/out a signal. might be some DUMB*** like you driving down the road!

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