Here’s another in our series of The Story Behind The Photo. This one is from CMG editor Mark Richardson.
Do you have a motorcycling photo with an interesting story behind it? We’d love to see it and publish it! Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and share it with the world!
I was on my way home to Toronto from visiting my dying father in hospital near Ottawa. I was riding a BMW K1200 press bike on Hwy. 7, heading west into the sun, when the police cruiser came up over the rise of the highway toward me. I slowed, but as soon as he passed, he turned in the road, put on his cherries and came after me.
I pulled over immediately and was still trying to park the bike on the loose gravel when the officer parked his cruiser behind, got out and came to help find a firm surface for the sidestand. He was a decent guy, and we chatted for a while as I struggled with the bike. Eventually, I found a stick, dug it into the gravel and we parked the bike safely. At least five minutes had passed and we’d been talking about the weather.
“I guess you know why I pulled you over,” he said.
“Was I going a bit quick?” I asked, as if I wasn’t sure.
“Well, put it this way,” said the cop. “When I saw you coming, I looked at my speed camera and I thought, ‘That can’t be right.’ So I reset it. You must have seen me because you’d slowed from 158 km/h to 155 km/h.”
This was before Ontario’s Stunting law was enacted, but such a speed was still a very serious offence. The limit on Hwy. 7 was 80 km/h and I’d just been caught riding at almost double that.
“The penalty for such a speed,” continued the cop, “is an automatic appearance before the county judge, and when convicted, a $1,200 fine and at least a one-month licence suspension. So give me your licence now – let’s get this over with.”
I gave him my licence and he went back to his cruiser. I was stunned. Truth be told, I’d had no idea I was riding so fast. The road was empty of traffic and my mind had been back in the hospital, still sitting beside my father, still watching him labour for breath, unaware I was even there. Still looking at his skeletal face, eyes closed behind heavy, wrinkled lids in deep, deep sockets. And now this. The cop had seemed so reasonable, but now this.
He left me there for probably 10 minutes while he called in all my details and then wrote out the ticket. I squatted beside the grass as cars passed, their drivers undoubtedly smug at the dirty biker who’d now been caught. When the cop finally returned, he looked grim as he handed over the paperwork, but it was for show. The ticket was for 15 km/h over.
“It’s enough that there’s a fine, but no points,” he said. “You pulled over right away and I appreciate that. Too many riders in this area take off and we have to decide whether to chase them or not. And if we chase them, they’re probably going to crash, and if they crash, they’ll probably be killed. I really appreciate you not making me have to make that decision.”
It wouldn’t happen these days. Such a speed in Ontario is now a $10,000 fine, seven-day roadside suspension, lots of points, and that’s before the insurance company cancels your policy. But I was an experienced rider on a capable bike with a clean licence and the cop recognized that, so we chatted for another 10 minutes or so.
He asked how come I was riding the BMW, since it didn’t belong to me, and I told him I wrote about motorcycles for the Toronto Star. When I asked if I could take his picture and put it in the newspaper, he readily agreed, provided I fudged the description of the offence. When it was published, I described my speed as “not so fast that it was worthy of points on my licence,” and he was happy with that. Enough time’s passed now for the truth to come out.
“Let me know when it’s going to be in the paper,” he said before we parted, which I did. And then his last words: “And slow down – I’m not the only cop on this road today.”