While driving home from a visit to Cleveland on a section of the Ohio turnpike, I noticed a band of motorcyclists wearing classic black leather jackets and riding Harleys. Curiosity about the group made me follow them for a hundred miles or so. I watched them signalling to each other about road debris, and how wisely they moved through occasional bouts of traffic.
There’s an obvious relationship in how motorcycles and cyclists move on the road. Yes, the speed dynamics are different. Lane positioning too. Cyclists need to ride on the side of the road, not in the middle like a motorcycle.
But the similarities remain. There are stickers out there that read, “Start Seeing Motorcycles.” That’s because too many motorists fail to keep an eye out for motorcycles.
The website AccidentDataCenter shares this information about the dangers of motorcycle riding. “While motorcycle accidents occur at about the same frequency as passenger vehicle accidents, the seriousness of injuries is much greater. Motorcycle accidents occur for many of the same reasons as car accidents, but are much more likely to result in serious injury or death. According to a study done by the federal government, motorcyclists are 35 times more likely to die in an accident than passenger vehicle drivers.”
That’s some pretty grim stuff. And there are reasons why it is so grim.
“This is because motorcyclists have to worry about all of the same risks as people in cars…but because motorcycles are small and there is so little padding between the driver and the road, an accident on a motorcycle is more dangerous than on any other vehicle. In a crash, a motorcyclist risks being crushed or run over by other vehicles, skidding across pavement at freeway speeds, having their motorcycle pin them to the ground, and any number of other injuries that are amplified by their lack of protection.”
There are other similarities between motorcycles and cycling. “At least 25% of motorcycle accidents are caused by fixed objects and road conditions. This means the driver hitting a pothole, an object in the middle of the street, a light post, or the road being wet or icy. While these risks also affect other sorts of drivers, people on motorcycles have to be especially aware of things in the road or weather conditions that will endanger them because of their unique vulnerability.”
I’ve been thinking about the more intimate relationship motorcyclists and cyclists have with the road. A significant pothole or road crack can throw a motorcyclist or cyclist off their machine in a heartbeat. Yet a car or truck sails right over. So one can see why people that have never ridden a bike have so little sympathy.
Yet the encounter with even a simple road feature like a tarsnake can cause a painful or even fatal accident for a cyclist. Those of us who pedal on the edge of the road see these things and are forced to swerve. In an effort to be safe in our riding, we indicate by hand signals to riders behind us that there are dangers ahead. Thus riding together is a cooperative venture. Just like those motorcyclists on the Ohio turnpike.
When the Axemen pulled into a rest stop I followed them and struck up a conversation with a couple of the members. It turns out they were participants in a fundraising ride for firemen in need of financial assistance due to job risks. I’ve seen many such rides in the motorcycling community. These are people trying to enjoy the road and do some good in the process. Just like cyclists.
Sure, the differences between motorcyclists and cyclists may seem profound. The vision of a sturdy motorcyclist with tons of facial hair, a black leather outfit and a bandanna on their head might seem like the polar opposite of the cyclist pedaling along in a lycra kit and a skinny tire bike. But there are far more similarities than differences where it really counts. All have a right to use the road, and there are far too many people driving motor vehicles who either refuse to acknowledge or forget to respect that fact.