Motorcyclists have a bad reputation. You can argue this point until redline, but it always comes down to the same sentiment: The general non-riding public pretty much despises sharing the road with motorcycles. We are all hooligans to them, wether we are rolling a chromed out Harley, clad in black leather, showing off ink and cultivating the badass look or we prefer to showcase the half-naked girlfriend’s asscrack hugging a crotch rocket and looking all Little G. Stereotypes? Of course. Extreme examples? Definitely. But this doesn’t really change the fact that the worst of us pretty much leave the imprint on the minds of many who then judge the rest of us by that first impression. Even the ultra-responsible hard-pannier toting BMW adventure rider isn’t safe from being judged harshly by the unwitting individual. It really doesn’t matter what we ride or how we ride it, when sharing the road with other motorists we eventually run into a taste of said general opinion in one form or another.
We even bicker amongst ourselves. The Harley-riding Badass dislikes the Wheelie-ing Hooligan on the latest sport bike and would rather run him off the road then yield to a high-speed pass. Adventure Riders laugh at the Rocketeers and everyone is annoyed by the Metric Cruisers, because they represent the worst of both worlds: they are slow and un-American. But that is an entirely different matter altogether and beyond the scope of what I want to get off my chest today. However, let me first state this about the bigger picture: Most of us do get along no matter what we ride and most of us enjoy responsibly and appropriately.
I’m not one of those people who believe that everything should be legislated or regulated or otherwise “dealt with” just because I happen to find it to be completely idiotic or otherwise disagreeable with my own opinionated stance. I don’t believe that we should save others from themselves. We have the rules and laws in place to do that already. We don’t need more rules and we definitely don’t need to add to the contention. However, I do believe in personal accountability and responsibility and with that I am a staunch supporter of education. Inform the people of the consequences and let them do what they will with this information by employing concepts such as personal responsibility and accountability.
You won’t find me judging the rider who makes free use of the lack of mandatory helmet laws in their state. I choose to wear my lid, they choose not to. It’s their noggin, who am I to tell them they have to wear it? Same with protective gear. I myself am a firm believer of wearing my gear, but I am not going to judge the person who decides they don’t need it. I will, however, make every attempt to educate them on the importance of being dressed “for the crash”. I place enough value on my own life to do everything in my power to increase the odds of my continued survival. But this doesn’t give me the authority (or the moral obligation) to regulate the behavior of those who disagree and by the same token, I detest being judged by the idiocy of others. I am a thinking person. I make my own decisions. I don’t need to have someone tell me what is good for me and what isn’t. I know right from wrong and I know how to behave within the social contract. I don’t need a bunch of jackasses force-feeding me. Educate, don’t regulate. You can’t legislate morality (or stupidity) anyway. But I am off on a tangent and am getting way too political for a person with a non-interference clause in her contract and a very dense dislike of politics. I hate politics, I love leadership. But that’s not for this blog or any other piece I’ll ever write.
Every time I get on my bike, I break the law. Every single time. Mostly it’s speeding, but I could have been cited for a host of other offenses had they been witnessed by the proper authority: Illegal drag racing, failure to negotiate a turn, passing in a no-passing zone, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane, excessive display of horsepower, road rage, racing, evasion, lane splitting. Those are only the ones that come readily to mind. And I’m a goody-two-shoes. May those of you without sin, cast the first stone! I’m ok with that, because there won’t be a single rock lobbed in my direction. I guarantee it.
Does this make me an unsafe rider? Does this make me a squid? I don’t believe so. I am human, I make mistakes. I have had my share of bad judgment calls. I have messed up in traffic and put myself or others in danger. It happens. I ride well within my limits, I make a concentrated effort to be safe and come home without a scratch on my bike or myself. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m 100% compliant with traffic laws. Nobody is. Safe riding does not equate to legal riding and legal riding does not equate to safe riding. Sometimes you have to make the crapchute decision between breaking the law and saving your ass. And as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six. That’s how I roll and it works for me. I have my machine under full control and I know its limits and my own. I am a safe and conscientious rider. My riding style may look aggressive to some, but I have long given up on keeping up appearances. My first priority is staying alive. But this isn’t the ultimate topic of this article. I’m just setting the stage for touching on something that everybody who has ever ridden a motorcycle on the street for any length of time eventually experiences to one degree or another.
As far as our bad reputation goes? We have ourselves to blame, or those of us who can’t keep things in the proper perspective, at the proper level and in the proper place. When you act the jackass in front of a bunch of motorists who don’t ride, you are calling negative attention to yourself and I guarantee you that within minutes of your offense the phone at the police station’s front desk is ringing off the hook with calls placed by aggravated individuals trying to save you from yourself and ruin it for every other motorcyclist in that area for the next few hours. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and pull a “race start” off a stop line after the traffic light turns green and then find yourself wondering why not five minutes later you see several squad cars policing the area. That shit is called in by the annoyed cager who is already yapping on his cellphone. You don’t even have to speed, but only appear to be speeding.
I was pulled over once by a motorcycle cop on a Harley. This was one of my more embarrassing moments on two wheels. Yours truly sitting sedately on her white Hayabusa wearing a cat-ear adorned helmet with a motor officer in tow. Sitting in four lanes of traffic at the longest red light in the history of carriageway-paving mankind getting the stink eye from several seemingly offended people in their cars and being told by the copper who pulls up next to me on his Hog to please pull over as soon as safely possible. What the hell did I do now? I didn’t get a ticket. He was a sportbike rider himself, was pretty disappointed that he had to ride a Hog at work, and was more annoyed by the situation than anything else. He said he wouldn’t have even bothered to pull me over, but he had to make it look appropriate, since a lot of the cagers where pointing at me, shaking their fists and signaling for the cop to let me have it, to remove the menace that I am from their motoring society. After running my license and plate, making sure I (and my bike) came back clean, he went off-duty and we talked shop for over half an hour. He said that people called me in for leaving a red light too fast when it turned green. And there were also complaints of speeding. He clocked me doing 70 coming out of a curve, but since I had been going more or less the speed limit before and had slowed back down to the flow of traffic after and didn’t endanger anybody else, he didn’t even worry about it. As for executing the alleged drag race start? I didn’t. I left from that stop line like I always do. I asked him if this was a regular occurrence for people to call in motorcycles. He said, and I quote: “All the damn time! And we have to go chase it down and investigate. You guys don’t even have to be doing something wrong and we still get calls about it.” Proof positive that, at least where I live, there is a direct correlation of some douche pulling some asshat stunt out of his bag of tricks and an increased presence of law enforcement in the area. I’ve always suspected as much, but never had any reason to believe it to be much more than mere coincidence until that conversation with the motorcycle cop. I came to naming the phenomenon “calling in a sighting”.
We all want to have fun when we’re out on a ride, so please do yourself and everyone else a favor and keep it in check and enjoy responsibly. I know I am going to catch a lot of flak for this, but let’s face it: At one time or another we all like to let it hang out a little and enjoy high performance outside of the parameters set forth by traffic laws and safe driving regulations. So, here they are, my ten rules every smart Hooligan on two wheels should know:
The 10 Commandments for Smart Motorcycle Hooligans
- Behave yourself in traffic! For crying out loud, what exactly does it prove when you’re doing a sustained 150 mph on the Interstate, passing everybody like they’re sitting still? Or pulling wheelies in traffic or otherwise annoy cagers with excessive display of your elevated risk acceptance. It only proves one thing: You’re an assclown who is going to have a really short riding career and you risk involving others in your shit-for-brains antics by putting them into possible harm’s way. And they might get to run you over, killing you because you fucked up. Now they have to live with THAT for the rest of their lives. No seriously. That’s just stupid. You want to speed and stunt? Find a deserted backroad with little traffic and no intersecting roads and have all the Hooligan fun you want. The less witnesses the better, and please don’t use the same spot all the time.
- Don’t involve others in your shenanigans. (See #1 above)
- Don’t pass like a jackass! Don’t tailgate! Don’t make other motorists feel pressured to speed up or get out of your way. Make sure it’s safe and give them some space. No buzzing the mirrors or cutting them off by coming back into your lane too soon. Respect their space and make a clean pass. You want to enjoy your ride, let them enjoy theirs.
- Be courteous. When someone does pull over to let you pass (this is a frequent occurrence on mountain roads) know that this is a courtesy extended to you. Give them a nod or a friendly wave. Let them know you appreciate their gesture of good will. Again, chances are if you ride their ass they won’t do jack for you. Respect others and they may just respect you.
- Speed safely. Yes. There is such a thing. Don’t hold higher speeds at sustained levels. Slow down for oncoming traffic and for areas that pose severe risk at higher speeds, such as intersecting roads, overlooks, pull-offs, parking lots, driveways, and areas with limited sight distance. You should be able to come to a complete stop within your line of sight, no matter what speed you’re going.
- Don’t speed stupid! No speeding (or other high-performance tricks, for that matter) in school zones, residential areas, parking lots, construction zones and other populated high-risk zones. The hefty price of a ticket written in any of those places should be your guide, if safety isn’t a main concern for you.
- Adhere to your riding group’s rules or don’t ride with them. Period.
- Respect the ride of others. We all have differing riding philosophies and have to ride within our chosen machine’s limitations. Make your passes clean, don’t harass other bikers even if you do not agree with their style, and keep the safety of other riders in mind before you act out.
- Don’t be a freaking asshole when you get pulled over. Own your shit!!! The cop is just doing his job and more often than not (within reason), if you were not being a jackass or riding like one, you might just get away with a warning. Don’t play the victim. Don’t whine. Don’t give the officer a hard time. You knew what you were doing could have dire consequences if you happen to get caught. We all know the risks involved when we decide to partake in a little throttle therapy that goes above and beyond.
- Don’t be a habitual offender. Ride hard, but ride smart. Don’t ride beyond your skill or machine limit. Engage in your criminal pastime in small doses; and, please, wear all your freaking gear, especially when you’re planning on getting “sporty”. No excuses! Dress for the slide, not the ride! Full race gear is wholeheartedly recommended.
You may now cast the first stone…
Spread the Word:
Cigarette butts out of car windows have homing devices built into their filters. They lock onto their target, enter the slipstream and take aim at the nearest motorcyclist. If I had a penny for every time… oh well, I could buy a pack of premimum pre-rolled and filtered cancer sticks of my choice.
I am tired of it! If you assholes would just take a moment to think how it would make you feel if some joker walking ahead of you flicked their half-smoked Marlboro over the shoulder at you and it hit you square in the chest. You both would end up sitting in the back of a squad car not ten minutes later, like 7th-grade school boys in the principal’s office. There would be an altercation, and tell me it isn’t so. I’ll eat a pack of Camels lit if you would just brush the ashes off your clean, neatly pressed dress shirt and go about your business without so much of a thought of letting the smoking offender know how displeased your are with their lack of consideration and total disregard for their surroundings.
Chances are the motorcyclist two car lengths behind you feels the same way. The jacket I am wearing cost more than your damn business casuals including your loafers and your cheap knock-off watch. I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture a guess and say that in some cases my ride and gear are worth twice the Kelly Blue Book value of your smelly-ass rolling dirty ashtray of an automobile. We are not just some hooligans who had it coming anyway.
If you don’t want the butts in your car, wait until you get to your destination to fire up the next coffin nail, you stupid moronic waste of human trash. Not to mention that if you flicked your butt at a cop you would get fined for littering! Hefty!
Have you ever considered what could happen if that burning projectile you so carelessly jettisoned from your fresh-smelling (and I mean that with every ounce of sarcasm that I have left) environment found its way into a motorcyclist’s helmet or down their jacket collar? And don’t you dare laugh at the thought. You wouldn’t after you spent some time educating your inconsiderate self in the ways of aerodynamics. Although you probably are too narrowly focused (I just spent the last of my sarcasm/cynicism allowance) to grasp the concept.
The next time you toss the rest of your drink, your lit cigarette, your girlfriend’s IUD out of your car window and then act surprised when some irate bitch on a supersport is pacing you close enough to clip your mirror while shaking a mad fist at you and staring you down with red glowing eyes, hoping you’d pull over so she can lay you out flat on the rumble strip, you might be able to venture a guess as to what the possible cause of her anger is.
We are living, breathing human beings who want the same thing you do: get to our destination in one piece, within a reasonable timeframe and with the least amount of stress and aggravation possible; maybe even arrive in a decent enough mood. The only real difference? We choose to use half the number of wheels to get around. Now quit treating us like we are just another vehicle and part of some machine. That “thing” plopped on top of that motorcycle — that is now close enough for you to reach out and touch — is 57% water, just like you and is very vulnerable unlike you in your cage constructed of high-tech plastics and metal alloys, with airbags all around, rolling down the avenue on four pieces of round rubber which are probably too low on air pressure.
Quit behaving like the world is yours and nobody but your deluded self matters. Next time don’t be surprised when I come up alongside you with my emergency window breaker and a can of mace at the ready. What do you think us two-wheeled menaces to society have stashed in those tank bags anyway? That’s where we keep a bottle of water, our stockpile of marshmallows, a handful of ball bearings, a couple of Glocks, extra high-capacity ammo clips, pink lip gloss and some hard candy. Now you know.
The “share the road” philosophy embodies more than just a sentiment to move over two inches for a bicyclist or a pedestrian. It also does NOT entitle you to laying on your horn every time you see a woman walking or cycling!
Oh, will you look at that?!? I still have a balance in my profanity/name-calling account.
You fucking douche bag litterbugs!
Spread the Word:
POSTED BY REQUEST of a dear friend:
Some may wonder why the Road Guardian Program was created. Last summer, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from someone in California who asked me a simple question, “In your opinion, how come Wisconsin has such a low fatality rate while California has such high rate?” He asked me not to cite statistics or other people’s opinions but to give my personal opinion. I told him that I’d need a couple days to think about this and that I’d get back to him. I knew that behind his question was another issue. How come a state that allows a biker the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet can have such a low fatality rate while a state that requires helmet use has such a high fatality rate?
My answer was that in my opinion, Wisconsin is not single focused where motorcycle safety is concerned. We do many things for motorcycle safety. In addition to rider education we also have programs that deal with impaired riding programs, motorist awareness activities like share the road programs, awareness rallies, yard signs, enhanced penalties for right of way violations, support to families whose loved ones were killed due to negligent motor vehicle operators and accident scene management (ASMI) education. In my opinion, all of these things together have lowered our fatality rate.
I started wondering if other states have this same kind of aggressive approach and have to say that it was really hard to find information on the web. Have you ever googled “motorcycle safety”? Try it sometime. 17 million hits came back. ASMI’s BOD were talking about how to better market Accident Scene Management because the name is often negative and you don’t get past the word Accident before people have their defenses up. We have a new business officer, a former ASMI student from Minnesota, Chris Hawver. Chris is amazing and has a Masters degree in marketing. He is a tremendous asset to ASMI with a background in technology and he gets joy out of assisting businesses with start up and proficiency. We worked together to create a program of Resources, Rewards and Recognition to encourage people to want to be trained. We also intentionally created a program that brought ASMI into motorcycle safety.
More background: ASMI was created in 1996 after a similar program was highlighted in Wisconsin. ABATE of Wisconsin invited Slider Gilmore to present his Two Wheel Trauma program (ABATE paid for him and two other presenters) at the Governor’s Conference on Highway Safety. As a nurse I was inspired by the information I learned and was grateful that Slider was willing to talk about helmet removal and other motorcycle specific information. I called Slider one week later and asked if he would allow me to use the information I learned in his class to put together a class for my friends. Little did I know that this would lead to what Accident Scene Management is today; 16,000 students trained and 130 instructors in 26 states.
After two years of training using DOT 402 funds it was time to be on our own and I was forced to start charging for the program. We were also starting to get requests from other states to bring the program to them and people were asking if I would teach them to be instructors. With 18 million motorcyclists in the United States it was obvious that this was a job too big for just me and a few friends or even too big for Slider alone. I had lunch with Slider and talked with him about my desire to take the program nationwide and train instructors to teach. He told me that a project like this would require a lot of energy so if I wanted to do it I should go for it.
Using the American Heart Association’s (AHA) CPR & First Aid as a model, I began to create an organization that would be to motorcycle trauma what AHA is to Heart Attack. An ASMI student who was a Certified Public Accountant offered to help me apply for 501(c)3 non-profit status and even paid for the filing. Michael Hupy offered to help keep the cost of classes low by subsidizing $10 per student. ABATE of Wisconsin helped advertise classes and later donated money each year to our fundraiser to help the program grow. Through the years we used evaluations from students to improve the program and grow professionally.
Funding for operational expenses continued to be an issue since we simply were not eligible for grants and because we were not a children’s charity or a disease, we were not well funded by biker efforts either. A fundraiser based upon Tommy Thompson’s Ride was created to help fund ASMI called Women in Motion. A number of my female friends who rode motorcycles did what the guys would typically do, road guard intersections.
By 2003 the ride had grown to 300 people. This ride was important in allowing us to create better materials, trademarks, develop a solid BOD and do more promotional travel. It also allowed me to move the office out of our home in 2001. Funding for the organization also came from Tony and me teaching classes. Unlike other instructors, when we taught our instructor fees were donated back to ASMI. The demand for administrative time was exhausting since not only was I administering, teaching, developing and coordinating things but was also I dealt with all of the fundraising that needed to be done to keep the business alive.
As ASMI grew so did the expenses and the demand for more time than I was able to give while working at the hospital. Through the years I continued to cut my hours until I now work only one day a week to keep my foot in the door. Currently I donate about 40-60 hours a week to Accident Scene Management as a volunteer. It’s hard for people to believe that I would do such a thing because they would not volunteer 40-60 hours week. They would not give up a good career with benefits to be of service to the motorcycling community. I have not felt that I needed to explain this or make a big deal about it. Only my Board of Directors and close friends know that I do all of this without compensation. I never felt I had to explain until now. There are rumors and e-mails circulating that I am in this for “the money”. There are rumors that say that ASMI must have “rolled over” and is somehow in bed with “the enemy” for some mysterious government grant or ulterior motive. Rumors say that I am in this for the glory and not to help bikers. Rumors are especially painful when they untrue and vindictive. I can tell you for a fact that I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly even a comfortable retirement because I believe in my heart that ASMI is an important part of motorcycle safety and needs to be recognized as an important partner in motorcycle safety. The stories of the good that has been done are so rewarding that I find it odd the people who benefit most from this training are having such a hard time supporting these efforts. While rider education is charging up to $300.00 for one day of training on your own bike, ASMI charges only $55.00 for a full day of training with materials provided. That is less than First Aid and CPR.
Finally I want to discuss the Biker’s Betterment Conference (BBC) controversy. The BBC is a resource initiative from the Road Guardian program. It is open to any and all bikers. Through the years I have had the good fortune of meeting many people who are interested in motorcycle safety. All of them are passionate about what they do. I don’t agree with all of them but they have a right to their opinion. As long as their opinion is just that, I am not affected. If they try to force their opinion on me then I will fight back, but as I was thinking about the “multipronged” approach of ABATE of Wisconsin, my thoughts were, let’s invite the safety community, including MSF and NHSTA, and let’s compare our programs and records with theirs. Let’s show them that what we do works and that we are in control of our own reduction of injuries and fatalities.
I invited ABATE of Wisconsin to speak about their programs and I invited Hardtail, president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, to speak about getting involved in motorcycling by getting involved in rights organizations. Even though the BBC is in Illinois, I did not ask A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois to speak about any of their programs because there was nothing they did that was unique (they offer MSF Rider Education classes and Share the Road). As a National Conference I was working at getting recognized National Guest Speakers and unique programs.
The line up for the conference is phenomenal, a star studded cast, but unfortunately the suspicions and innuendos mentioned above have led to a cancerous effect within some rights groups. The MRF BOD refused to allow Hardtail to speak at the conference citing Michael Hupy’s involvement as the reason. Hardtail went to the ABATE of Wisconsin BOD and suggested that they should not attend, send speakers or support the event because by attending they were supposedly subscribing to the thinking and opinions of the speakers who did not share Rights Activist’s opinions.
Though this conference is meant to be purely educational and not political at all, Hardtail was concerned that attendees were asked not to use the conference to turn guest speaker’s presentations into a debate. He complained that there are no “bikers” presenting there (funny how the bikers pulled out then complained that they are not there). It was also suggested that ASMI must have accepted a government grant and must have been involved in planning the event with NHTSA. Hardtail poisoned the ABATE board’s rationale by saying that ASMI must have been working with NHTSA for at least 6 months to have been able to get them to participate. This is simply not true. I presented our initiative to Michael Jordan, NHTSA, after we launched the program January 7, 2010 and asked at that time if he would like to attend. I suggested he relate what studies NHTSA is involved in and what free resources are available to bikers through the DOT.
To set the record straight ASMI has not accepted any government money for this conference or for any part of the Road Guardian Program. The conference is completely self funding and no speakers are being paid. Most conference presenters are even paying their own way (including Michael Jordan) to show support for this new safety initiative that broadens our concept of motorcycle safety and brings people together to present topics that may be of interest to bikers so that they can be safer riders.
I would like to ask cyclists out there to think for themselves. Do you really believe it’s your right to choose? Wouldn’t you like to know the difference between DOT and Snell standards for helmets? What free resources are available to you though the DOT? What’s the difference between ABS and regular brakes? How did the military reduce fatalities by 75% in one year? Why would rights groups be so concerned about being seen at a motorcycle safety conference? Do you believe in Education not Legislation? Who is the Totalitarian in this situation? Is it the person who comes on their own dime to share their knowledge or the person who tells you that you can’t attend?
I challenge you to make up your own mind.
Vicki Sanfelipo, RN/EMT – Executive Director ASMI
Co-founder, Road Guardians
Life Member, ABATE of Wisconsin
Member, MRF, AMA