More Than Equal Rights

Transportation planners and the public at large understand motorcycles as thin, unstable cars. And toys. Everyone grew up absorbing well crafted educational campaigns about how motorcycles have equal road rights. And we learned how light rail, bicycle and pedestrian travel is separate from automobile transportation and worthy of special paths, laws, taxes, funding and other accommodations.

Motorcycles are seen as risky single track automobiles and as toys because of their roughly similar transport characteristics (speeds, load capacities, infrastructure requirements, individual private ownership, etc...) and because they've long been grandfathered into road laws and vehicle codes. Today, motorcycles ride on the thin historical coat tails of an elaborate and refined legal framework, and on a variety of transportation management protocols that have evolved and been optimized to serve and encourage the widest adoption of private automobiles.

But motorcycles are clearly as different from cars as they are from bicycles, commuter trains or skateboards. They are a wholly unique kind of vehicle...machines unto themselves that ought to be fully recognized for their unique advantages...and provided with a set of exclusive legal and social accommodations so that they can be ridden more and utilized better as personal transportation tools. This will help them appeal to the largest possible number of people. This is how motorcycles can achieve their potential and provide civilization the maximum social good. It is time to ask that bikes not only be given the same rights as cars, but that bikes be given greater rights. For example, many state laws and driver's training manuals make a big point about it being illegal to share a lane with a bike. But in some circumstances, that's exactly what riders want - the chance to
share a lane and take advantage of their motorcycle's narrowness and nimbleness. We need the legal right to help reduce congestion for everyone. On a continuum, some bikes are slightly more car-like; cruisers, touring bikes, etc,...and some are more bicycle-like; scooters, dual sports, standard and naked bikes, motards, etc...but all are uniquely single track vehicles: motorcycles.

In the extreme, Ride to Work Day and related programs are about more than simply equal rights for motorcycles. We want greater rights for motorcycles. At work and in private parking ramps we want the 2nd best parking spots...right after the bicycle racks. We want to park our cycles in the areas that are the next-closest to the building's nearby entrances, just behind the special spaces for the disabled. And we want covered parking places that are more secure than what is generally provided for autos. And places for storing riding gear. Remember, three to five bikes can fit in one car space so everyone else ends up parking a little closer, too. On the road we want the right to legally filter when appropriate - in defined, safe ways - to better take advantage of our nimble machine's capabilities. And the right to legally put multiple bikes in a metered space. Or to legally park on selected sidewalk areas. Or the right to pass a traffic light sensor that won't trigger. Or skip a bridge toll.

Motorcyclists want increased recognition: We help maximize the public utilization of our road system. We save time and energy. We contribute less to global warming. We do not require costly special corridors and paths like bicycles, light rail or pedestrians. We are always engaged and awakened by riding. We need a change in public attitudes.