Tag Archive: traffic

The Evolution of Motorcycle Safety

Did you know that the very first motorcycle was built in 1868? While popularity of the motorcycle didn’t quite catch on until the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1967 that the first helmet law was passed. Since 2005, not much has changed to enforce the law throughout the United States. In fact, according to this new info-graphic, it seems that motorcycle laws have become more lenient over the years. More and more states went from a universal helmet law to a partial helmet law by 2005, raising the age limit so that riders 20 and under (up from 17) are required to wear a helmet. This leniency has resulted in 17 states seeing an increase in motorcycle-related mortality rates.

Most states in the southeast and southwest saw higher mortality rates than the rest of the country. The most recent data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that over 4,000 American motorcyclists died in traffic accidents during 2013, which is 13% of all motor vehicle deaths for that year. If the mortality rate for motorcyclists makes up more than ten percent of all accidents, why isn’t the law being adjusted to keep those motorcyclists safe?

The answer might lie in the mortality rates of the rest of the states. Click the graphic below to find out.

Motorcycle-Safety-IG-FINALmini1

SMIDSY

SMIDSYThe article “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/19/2013.

Over a dozen years of all-season commuting has taught me many ways to handle a wide variety of situations. One of the most dangerous for riders is the left turning driver coming towards them. The 2009 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute report found that more than half of motorcycle-related deaths involved at least one other vehicle and 42 percent of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle crashes involved a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle.

I’ve never quite gotten used to the feeling that the driver waiting to turn left doesn’t see me and, having witnessed a serious crash a while back, I have firsthand knowledge of just how horrific it can be when they don’t. That incident is still burned into my brain. However, I happened across a the video bellow that explains some of the reasons for what they call the “SMIDSY” (an acronym for Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You).

The fact that motorcycles present such a narrow and small profile can make it difficult for drivers to differentiate them from the background and to detect movement. While we can blame the driver to a large degree, there are physiological reasons that may account for their failing to see a motorcyclist. Imagine trying to tell if a person walking some distance ahead of you on foot is moving towards you, away from you, or merely standing still. They can easily blend into the background to the point where you don’t see them unless they move side to side, raise their arms, or do something else to distinguish themselves. For me that reinforces the idea that I have to assume I am not seen, and why I say that you simply can’t ride a motorcycle with the same mindset you use when driving a car, especially near intersections.

A technique I’ve been using, which is discussed in the video, is to gently swerve left and right if I’m approaching an intersection where a driver is waiting to turn across my path. The swerve breaks me from my background, which, from the driver’s perspective, is locked and still. The trick is to keep the movement gentle yet noticeable. You don’t want to give the impression that you are turning or playing around. You just want to be visible as a moving object against a static background.

A motorcyclist’s safety arsenal includes a lot of techniques and, at least for me, the swerving technique described in the SIMDSY video seems to work when coupled with high visibility gear, neutral throttle, and keeping two fingers on the brake lever. It’s another way to be proactive and to stay safe out there.

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The Smidsy

I’ve seen this video a few places now and thinks it’s something every rider should see so I’m re-posting it here. It’s the pilot of a series of videos on accident avoidance from the rider’s perspective. This one deals with a driver pulling out in front of a motorcycle he failed to see and how we, as riders, can be sure we are seen.

Ride safe.

The Highest Pass

“The Highest Pass is within us. This journey is to realize that.” -Anand, Sattva Yoga Guru

Soon after Adam Schomer meets a modern yogi and guru, Anand Mehrotra, they plan an expedition through the highest passes of the Himalayas in Northern India. These are some of the most dangerous roads in the world, yet they manage to assemble a team of seven motorcycle riders to share in what will become the journey of a lifetime.

These riders and Adam, who learned to ride two weeks before the trip, are guided by the inspiring teachings of Anand who bears the burden of a Vedic prophecy that predicts he will die in his late twenties in an accident. He is that age now, yet leads with a fearlessness and wisdom that reminds us that “Only the one who dies, truly lives.”

But wisdom in words and wisdom in practice can be very different indeed, especially when riding along the sheer icy edges of Himalayan cliffs. The bikers ride on that edge, navigating dirt, gravel, snow, ice and the onslaught of loaded trucks, known as “road killers”, as they journey for 21 days towards the highest motorable road on earth. It is a pass open only three months a year and at a height 18,000ft, is on par with Everest base camp. Low oxygen, altitude sickness, river flooded roads, and a constrictive fear all live along this one lane road.

Yet they choose this path to seek Ladakh, the land known as the Little Tibet. Why this path? Because it’s a road that leads to incredibly isolated mountain lakes, ancient monasteries, inside the knowing eyes of a mystic oracle, and ultimately deeper into themselves…

It’s amazing that their guide himself is battling a prophecy and yet is determined to ride one of the hardest roads in the world. It is both haunting and inspiring. It brings up our worst fears and our deepest courage. Adam must ask if the possibility of a spiritual breakthrough worth the risk of serious injury or death? Will it help us all understand what it means to live our lives?

This adventure cracks the foundations we think we stand on. And in this case, the foundation is a one lane road winding through the Himalayas. The Highest Pass.

Check out our other movie bike posts.

Check out our other movie bike posts.

Road Rage in Brazil

I just wrote a post for RoadRunner Magazine called “Rage Against The Machines” about how important it is to control your anger as you ride. My buddy Chris sent me this video of a cager vs. motorcycle road rage incident in Brazil which illustrates my point. I’m not sure what led up to the footage below (more…)

Motorcycles in San Pedro, Belize

We just got back from a trip to San Pedro Belize, which is on the northeastern coast of Central America bordered to the north by Mexico, south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Transportation on the island is interesting to say the least. There are very few cars on the island and the roads are a mix of brick, stone, dirt and sand. Most people get around by either golf cart (in the case of most tourists), bicycle (many locals) or motorcycles and scooters.

Main Street

From what I was able to find out there is a 150cc limit on motorcycles in place and, while there is no helmet law, there is a law requiring you to bring a helmet with you when you register your bike. I read recently that many people were borrowing helmets from friends so the law was changed to read that you must bring a receipt for your helmet as well. I can’t verify that however. The most common bikes I saw were Yamaha (YBR125) and Meilun trail bikes.

Toll Schedule

We saw entire families riding on a single scooter and or motorcycle (smallest child sitting on the tank or standing in front between dad’s arms, mother and occasionally another child behind). The helmets I did notice ranged from none to bicycle helmets. There is no real pleasure riding on the island,  most of the riding there is utilitarian, even the police only ride bicycles (I was told that this was because they hadn’t paid the bill they owed for gas).

YBR125

The trip was interesting as it was my first chance to see how motorcycles are used for a variety of utilitarian needs (even the water is delivered by a Meilun Cargo bike a half motorcycle half trailer setup).

San Pedro is a fantastically beautiful island. I recommend it if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with a lot of great people, just don’t expect to ride much…

Meilun Cargo Bike