Don’t let the snowstorms of the past couple of months fool you, motorcycle riding season is upon us here in Washington.
Riders all over the greater Seattle area, myself included, have been cleaning up their motorcycles and venturing out on the few nice days we have experienced recently. For those motorcycle enthusiasts who venture out on two wheels all year round, the nicer weather is just an added benefit to their passion for the ride.
There are two facts about motorcycling, it is fun, and it is dangerous. Every rider should keep a few important things in mind as the weather changes from the rain and gloom to our spectacular Washington days of summer.
There were six fatalities involving motorcycles through Feb. 29, 2008 compared to only two for the same period in 2007, the State Patrol reports. Of those fatalities, all but one was caused by the motorcycle rider. The fatality numbers have leveled off at 12 to date compared to 16 to date for 2007. Sgt. Freddy Williams of the Washington State Patrol said that he attributes the lower numbers to the late winter we have experienced as well as aggressive enforcement and education.
“We used to think that most motorcycle collisions were caused by ‘the other guy,’” said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “That’s no longer the case. Today, the riders themselves are responsible for the majority of these crashes, and that’s entirely preventable.”
The State Patrol lists the primary causes of motorcycle collisions as lane travel, speeding, alcohol use and inattention. (This is the part where I rant a little about my fellow riders.)
I have been riding street bikes for more than 25 years and riders in my early years were mostly responsible. The riders then were people who loved to ride for the freedom of it. Over time, and particularly in the past few years, I have seen an enormous increase in the number of people who probably shouldn’t be riding. I blame this, in part, on all the motorcycle and chopper shows that are so popular. Now, a lot of people are riding for the “image” – you know who you are. The guys on the sport bikes who feel the need to pop a wheelie on a public road, the guy on the cruiser who needs to constantly rev his engine at a stoplight. You all need to stop. NO ONE is impressed. All you are doing is making yourself look like an idiot and the rest of us riders look like idiots by association. By the way, for those people feeling the need to pop a wheelie on a public road, “You will automatically be criminally cited for reckless driving”, said Sgt. Williams.
The mark of a man on a motorcycle is someone who knows they have all that horsepower at their disposal, but no need to show it off on a public roadway.
If you feel the need to prove your skill, you can do exactly that at Pacific Raceways in Kent.
Road Course Manager Steve Caputo said that riders can hook up with motorcycle clubs such as 2Fast, and Mike Sullivan Motorcycle Road-racing. These schools will get you out on the track and push your riding to the next level. “You can’t get pushed any harder than when you are on a track with a bunch of other riders” Caputo said. Also, there are “Test and Tune” days at the track where any rider can take their bike out and race other bikes on the drag strip. “Riders who have pushed the limit on the track are safer riders on the road,” Caputo said. For more information, go to www.pacificraceways.com.
Dale Niemi of Waldron Kawasaki in Issaquah said that there are many more riders on the road today compared to 15 years ago. “Not only is there a continued interest through television programs and videos, it is much more than just a fun factor,” he said. Niemi added that many times people are coming in to purchase motorcycles as a more economical form of transportation. “Mileage ranges from in the 30’s to about 70MPG”. He also said that he recommends that all riders get an endorsement. “We get some V.I.P. slots in the rider education program classes because we loan some of our bikes to the schools”. This allows some of his customers to bypass the sometimes lengthy wait to obtain a spot in a training class.
The other critical thing to remember, as Niemi said, get your motorcycle endorsement. I know that a lot of you figure you don’t really need it, but not only is it the law, you might actually learn a thing or two in the process. To get your endorsement you need to either complete and pass an approved motorcycle rider course at a motorcycle training school or, pass a motorcycle knowledge test and riding test. Locations and class information can be found through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website, http://www.msf-usa.org. State Patrol statistics show that nearly 50 percent of all riders involved in collisions have no endorsement. If you are stopped while riding with no endorsement you will receive a criminal citation and your motorcycle will be impounded according the the State Patrol.
By just doing the basics – watching out for each other, being courteous and enjoying the ride for the sake of the ride – we will all live to ride another day.