In the afterword of his book Goodbye To All That, Robert Graves refers to his growing up in an era when any motor vehicle was legally required to be proceeded by a man on foot with a red flag, presumably to protect the hapless populace from their infernal trifecta of noise, speed, and generally alarming nature. One suspects such a rule was in effect due to the fact that no one had gathered enough information regarding motorized vehicles to know how to react and/or enforce their drivers' behavior short of hoping the things would just go away, somehow.

They figured it out eventually though, didn't they?

Although the tradition of motorcycling undoubtably has its roots in exuberant young men with mechanical aptitude and perhaps more than a bit of 'vinegar' (the Royal Tank Corps in WW1 pointedly recurited such types), Bikers As Rampaging Societal Menace is largely a post-WW2 phenomonon, the salient watershed of which (In these United States) was the Hollister rally/riot in 1947. A genie was uncorked in popular culture and media perception that has never quite been put back in the bottle after that one...

I had a retired neighbor some years ago who, when I arrove home on my 1000cc sportbike, would good-naturedly refer to me as being a 'sickle bum', a term I found curious. After some plying with malted hops one evening, he quite reluctantly admitted to having once been affiliated with a certain 'outfit' in the postwar SoCal outlaw scene and after a while, admitted to having been at the rally in question. My brief (and, by now, somewhat slurred) question as to 'what exactly went on' was answered with a somewhat-evasive 'well, not THAT much, really, but we did put a few cops in garbage cans...'

And boy, they never forgot, did they?

Sometimes we all pay the price, deserving or no. Maybe you've never so much as gotten a ticket in your life. Maybe you've been yanked for no reason and physically threatened when you ask what's going on. Maybe you've had the validity of your parentage called loudly into question. Maybe...
Maybe you've had some wildly unprofessional interactions with the Long Arm Of The Law. (send 'em in!) And maybe, like one of our contributors this month, you've been injured, maybe seriously, by a motorist who got little more than a slap on the wrist. And maybe you're wondering how that can be allowed to happen.

We're legally recognized users of the transportation infrastructure, i.e., we're permitted on the roads. We pay taxes and licensing fees. We carry insurance and required safety equipment on our vehicles. As delivered, they're as DOT legal as anything out there. And with that, one would think, should come equal protection under the law.

It doesn't. And there's a lot of evidence to support this conclusion.

I'm not talking about getting singled out and picked on by cops here. I (and probably you) have had that happen, but it's not the big problem we face as riders. Later in this issue an excellent article reprint by Bob Higdon addresses what is.

It's called injustice.

We and others have managed to convince the culture that we're a bunch of idiot lepers that deserve everything we get because we're running around on two wheels and obviously having way too much fun to be taken seriously.

And that running one or more of us over (as long as you're in a car or truck) is not that big a deal.

Things are bad when the law, whatever it is, is enforced differently for different vehicle types.

Riding To Work is one of the few motorcycling activities that highlights the practical, everyday aspects of motorcycling and shows why they are a positive, good thing. Not just hooligan toys or status-fetish objects for those with waay too much cash, hubris, or �tude... They're a real transportation alternative that happen to be fun as hell.

Riding to work and for mundane, banal transportation reasons shouldn’t be punished. We ought to be rewarded, not ostracized. We’re easier on the roads, take up less space overall including parking, and generally tread lighter than any other motorized vehicle on the public roadways. We help car drivers get where they’re going faster. We need to get all of the positive, utilitarian social good we accomplish by travelling on two wheels out to the public in a way they will understand and appreciate. State our case sans the silliness. Just for a few minutes, everybody...

We shouldn't receive a lesson in injustice because of our transportation choice. Nobody gets chided for being in a car that’s involved in an accident or an airplane that crashes. Let’s remind people that motorcycles are a legitimate part of the surfacetransportation mix and not some sort of loony sideshow.

Ride To Work Day is the third Wednesday in July.

-Edward Peterson