Letters

Category:

Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2000
From: Barry Houldsworth (by email)
Yesterday the EPA produced it's latest list of fuel economy figures along with a great deal of hoopla about how much pollution could be saved with only a small amount of improvement etc. Just to check I went to their web site and searched it. The following text is the response. 'Your query "motorcycle" matched 0 documents out of 2331. 0 documents displayed.' I think that just about says it all. The most economic car available manages 61 mpg. I have an R1100GS that I use to commute everyday - it gives around 45mpg in urban riding and will still do 0-60 in under 4 seconds and cut through traffic like no car can. There are, of course, a great deal of bikes that are more efficient than my bike. While I believe that riding is not for everyone (the thought of my Mother-in-law on a motorcycle scares the hell out of me) there are a number of people that would benefit a great deal from riding and might even enjoy their commute - I know that I do.
Regards,
Barry

Hi Barry,
Thank you for your message and the information about the EPA. Not only does your GS 1100 get 45 mpg in urban conditions, it is actually more directly comparable to Range Rovers and Explorers and other luxury utility vehicles....than to economy cars. When sub 500cc utility motorcycles are used in typical urban traffic cycles they can get 70, 80 or more mpg. Scooters do even better. These types of bikes make better 'apples to apples' comparisons with economy cars. To be fair, compare luxury, touring, and performance bikes to luxury and performance oriented automoblies occupying the same market segments. (Your GS is the worlds most economical Humvee or Range Rover.) It�s not fair to compare a big luxury or performance bike to an ultlight small car.
Andy

 

 


Part of a letter from Joseph Glydon (Dec 12, 2000):
"....Good issue of RTW. I commute exclusively on my Honda cx 500, so I don�t hear the traffic reports on those days (less than half the work week). If I�m home writing I tend to keep the radio on. I hear reports of an inordinate number of �motorcycle down� accidents. One or two per week. Even in the Bay Area there are precious few exurban motorcycle commuters. I often ride the 25 miles from Vallejo to Emeryville (big time commute corridor here...) without seeing another motorcycle. My point is, from this hipshot survey, motorcycle commuting begets a fair bit of carnage. Admittedly, many Bay Area motorcycle commuters are aggressive high speed lane splitters and the accidents reported on the radio don�t seem to involve severe injury or dearth. Obviously I believe in the benefits of motorcycle commuting - a minute of vibrant youth saved today is worth an hour or a month at the shallow end of life�s pond to my mind, so I have little inclination to squander an extra hour on commute days in the interest of insuring I get my due in a rest home. To my mind, the same risks exist for the motorcycle commuter and the recreational motorcyclist. There are of course more reckless and cautious members of any subgroup...."
Joseph Glydon

Dear Joseph,
Thank you for your supportive, kind and thoughtful letter. You are correct that commuting riding involves similar risks as leisure riding...with the added factors of sometimes dense traffic. It is possible that over the last two decades motorcycling has gravitated more toward touring, sport bikes and cruisers...and away from everyday commuting riding...because the population of active riders desiring to enjoy the sensations of motorcycling while minimizing their risks choose sport riding and cruising over everyday utility motorcycling. Avoiding high traffic situations by deliberately riding in places and at times where the roads are relatively clear is one way to mitigate perhaps the most significant threat to motorcycling...the danger that is posed by mixing incompatible vehicle types (cars/trucks vs motorcycles) on the same roads at the same times.

Cars and trucks help further capsulize the lives of those who employ them on a daily basis. This is clearly anti-socializing. As a species we probably have a several hundred thousand year history of profound socialization...of living closely with other people in small groups. Motorcycling is highly socializing because it exposes us fully to the observation of those around us. When we greet another person, we offer a hand in an open wave. We also position ourselves frontally to offer others a full view. In riding, we display our open and obvious vulnerability. We show we are brothers and sisters with everyone around us on the road...in ways that are far more significant than are possible in a car.

If more people start to ride for transportation, there will be more injuries. At least for a while. But think for a second about Gandhi and the revolution in India. People had to die there. Martyrs. If enough of the traffic mix becomes motorcycle riders, car driving behavior and traffic laws and enforcement will change. The advantages of riding are not only selfishly enjoyed speed, efficiency, health and enviormentally related. Riding is a true social good who�s indirect social and cultural benefits far outweigh any small, temporary additional increase in accidents. (Injury and fatality numbers may spike transitionally.) Imagine our culture if 20% of road transportation
vehicles are motorcycles or high speed scooters. Auto and truck driving behaviors will respond accordingly. People do not smoke as much as they used to. People do not drink and drive as much, either. Remember the famous photo of the daisy placed in the muzzle of an M 1 rifle? Encouraging more people to ride for transportation is going to be worth it.
Sincerely,
Andy

 

 


Subject: Editorial......risk
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000
From: Fran Oldham (by email)

Excerpt from longer message:
�I think the biggest reasons (for not riding for transportation...), not in any particular order, are: Limitations imposed by having only a bike at work (taking other people about, taking stuff with you); the inconvenience of having to get all dressed up in leathers and helmets and all the other paraphernalia of motor-cycling at both ends of the day (bad enough in good weather, but murder in cold or rain) instead of just jumping into the car and going; weather: too cold in winter, too hot in summer, too wet any time, too slippery in snow, sleet and ice, too damned changeable; the difficulty of having decent clothes on at work and keeping them decent under motorcycling clobber; the necessity of making sure that you are really paying attention when you are riding, especially riding home at night if you have a job that calls for intense concentration and involvement; the added tension of keeping a look-out for all the inattentive road-users in both directions; if your journey to work is short, the ratio of time on the road to time getting togged up either results in your taking stupid chances and riding un-protected or in spending much longer getting to and from than you do in the car...."

Hi Fran,
Although the Daily Rider is being sent mostly to motorcyclists, it's content is also designed to be read by non-riders. (The Daily Rider is produced to be used as a pro-active tool for this type of outreach.) The Daily Rider is not about persuading people to become riders....it is focused on expanding participation in Ride to Work Day and on raising everyones awareness about the advantages of riding for transportation. I hope that over time it will be able to address these goals in a variety of ways that are helpful for both riders and non-riders.

You are very correct that most riders would name 'inconvenience' (or'impracticality') as the primary reason for not using their motorcycle for everyday transportation. In contrast, I believe most non riders would list 'risk' as the main reason arguing against motorcycling for transportation. These two different answers represent an important disconnect between these two groups. I want to exploit this...to the advantage of motorcyclists. It is natural for non-riders to believe that riding is excessively risky. Risk management of anything (airplane flying, scuba diving, motorcycling, etc...) by direct experiences significantly diminishes the perception of risk. Psychological studies comparing and valuing 'known fears' to 'unknown fears' have well established these differences.

Andy


Subject: Comments on The Daily Rider
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2001
From: Phil Boncer (by email)

....The perception of risk by the average person bears little relation to the actual risk...I have synthesized various sources to come up with the following conclusions about common daily risks. These comments apply only to life in America:

1) For the average person, the chance of dying from an automobile accident is about 1%.
2) For the average person, the chance of dying from any type of accident is about 2%. (98% 00die from age and/or diseases)

Regarding motorcycling:

1) The accident rate for motorcycling, per mile traveled, is not significantly different than that 00for cars.
2) The death rate for motorcycling, per mile traveled, is about 7 times that for cars. In other 00words, compared to your car driving buddies, you are not any more likely to crash, but if 00you do, it's more dangerous.
3) Roughly half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve untrained unlicensed riders.
4) Roughly half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve alcohol consumption by the rider.
5) Proper protective gear (i.e. helmets and leathers and gloves and boots) reduces the death 00risk by roughly half.

If you put these five statements together, you can see that your chance of having an accident can be influenced to become much less than that of the average car driver, and your risk of death will then be about the same as that of your average car driver, per mile traveled. Of course, weather can affect this, as can other factors, but it shows that motorcycling is not necessarily a very dangerous activity. (Of course, if you take these same precautions in your car, you will also reduce your risk compared to the average driver.) The point is that motorcycling is not something only those with a death wish would do, as some people (and their mothers and doctors) would have you believe....