Opinion: Need for speed

Photo: CBC

There is an element of risk that we, as motorcyclists, accept if we are to continue riding. We hear how dangerous it is from our family and friends and are occasionally reminded of the perils by news outlets who report on collisions and fatalities. Social media has only exacerbated this as some take it upon themselves to share reports of every mishap involving a motorcycle.

Every time there is a collision involving a motorcyclist reported in the newspaper or on the evening news, my dear mum calls me to ensure I’m okay. We’ve been speaking on the phone a lot lately, because collisions, particularly fatal ones, are rampant this summer.

Here in the Greater Toronto Area alone, there have been three fatalities in the last week – all involving only a single vehicle. I’m not one to speak ill of the deceased, but many of their tragic ends seem to follow a very predictable narrative. Common threads seem to be excessive speed, unsafe riding, and lack of proper gear.

I’m the first to admit there are times when the cards are not stacked in your favour. You could be doing everything right and yet things still go wrong. A perfect example is when I was riding home from a friend’s BBQ early one evening and was struck by a car. I chronicled the experience in a feature called Saved by the Boot, but I’ll give you the gist – I was riding the speed limit and wearing bright colours, I was sober, licensed, and insured, yet was still T-boned by an Uber driver making an illegal U-turn.

The events over the last week tell a different tale. If news reports are to be believed, each occurrence involved witnesses that stated seeing high speeds and reckless behaviour just prior to the fatal incident.

Just this week, a CP24.com report was shared to a motorcycle group’s Facebook page: “Two people were rushed to trauma centre after serious crash on Highway 407.” Facebook user Mark Cunningham responded: “Saw it happen. Motorcycle past me like I was standing still and I was doing 120km/h. Police parked at side of road and put on his lights. He spilled. Girl was on the back. Wasn’t moving when we past. Hope they survive.”

Jelena Kafadar asked, “Is it worth not paying a ticket? Is the life that cheap? hopefully they survived sad for a passanger.” James Hutt responded: “ticket? The fuq? Its 2 weeks fee of the impound lot, 3k in fines, suspension, the insurance rates going up.. so no… not just a ticket.. more like thousands of dollars!! If a pig turns on his lights when I’m going 150+, I’m either getting away or I’m dying.”

42 motorcyclists were killed in the province on OPP patrolled roadways last year, 37 of which only involved one vehicle. That’s up from just 27 in 2019. As of May 22nd, the season had just begun and the count was already at four.

There’s no question that skyrocketing insurance costs have motivated riders to go without and that new speed laws have created a higher incentive to run from the police for fear of losing their license (if they have one). Doing an oil change in a hotel parking lot on my R6 last month before taking part in a lapping day, an employee was admiring the bike and said he owned an R1. Being a young guy, I said his insurance must be outrageous. He laughed and said, “We don’t pay insurance. If the lights come on we drop a gear and disappear!”

I was once pulled over by a police officer while riding a BMW K1300S who was genuinely shocked I stopped. “Thanks for stopping,” he said. “Guys who ride motorcycles like this don’t typically stop.” When I admitted that making a run for it hadn’t actually crossed my mind, he said, “That’s smart. You can outrun a car, but you can’t outrun a radio.” Bottom line: it is not a race you’re going to win. Unfortunately, not all of our brethren feel the same way and some pay the ultimate price.

It’s not that I don’t want my mother calling me multiple times a week, but I’d prefer if it was to share better news than hearing about fallen brothers and sisters. If we practice better judgment, we’ll have a far better chance of being able to ride another day.


  1. These intended preemptive warning articles always seem to have one common detail most of the time. It’s frequently directed at street riders. I’d hazard a guess the statistics are primarily made up of new riders, health compromised cruiser riders and testosterone filled sport bike riders. A lot of their riding is made up of inner city, local high traffic loops or just showing off. It’s predictable sh*t will happen, just a case of how serious. Perhaps consider staying out of high population areas and maybe give dirt or rural dualsport riding a go for a few seasons well further skills and intuition develop. Just look around, most of the facebook pages and forums usually go into defcon warning modes when someone mows grass onto a local street. Most seasoned dirt riders find this a massive over reaction and rightfully so. There also has to be someway found to keep teens to twenty somethings off the streets with YamSuzKawHon CBR_R1_GSXR_H2 type things. Comparing with 4 wheels if you gave a newbie a choice of a Chevy Spark or Ferrari as a 1st vehicle cost will keep things sane. Unfortunately 200 hp on two wheels is well within the loan payment from a part time job then bad judgement and ego will do the rest.

  2. Yeah it’s like The Wild West down here on the Lakeshore. Gangs of noisy crotch rockets with scantily-clothed women clinging to the little passenger seats, heheh… both directions.
    But the Lakeshore is like they are taking the scenic route downtown – not like riders doing 150+ and weaving through cars on the highway, that’s perilous. Buddy dove to the inside (just last week) and smacked into a giant truck that was merging onto the highway… ouch.
    Because the network of roadways needs to function with the very lowest common denominator, our low speed limits are in fact required. There are lots of old people etc. driving and new young car drivers too.
    So when a motorcycle comes though doing 80 in a 50, they need to realize how crazy-dangerous that is!

  3. Actually the 2020 motorcyclist fatalities in Ontario were 76, according to the Ministry of Transportation Safety web page. The figure of 42 is probably the OPP-patrolled highway count. This 76 figure is about 14% of total road fatalities for 2020. Usually, motorcyclist fatalities are around 10% of total road fatalities.
    Al Johnson

    • Thanks for the clarification, Al! I should have specified that the figure was indeed an OPP count. Either way – the figures are not good. Ride safely.

  4. Lets not forget the average of 74 bicyclists killed every year in Ontario! Speed is definitely an issue but we must also not forget drivers not watching out for Motorcyclists and other 2 wheeled machines. Left-turning vehicles have also been responsible for a few fatalities this year where the rider was following the rules!

    I will also say, the increased penalties are definitely a motivator to run, as well as the astronomical insurance rates……. Unfortunately, as you stated- many of the people who run or do these absurdly fast speeds also do not carry insurance (or have already lost their license)

    I just hope these individuals do not ruin it for the rest of us law abiding motorcyclists :/

  5. “James Hutt responded…If a pig turns on his lights when I’m going 150+, I’m either getting away or I’m dying.” The epitome of idiocy. Firstly 150? This person has a total disregard for himself and others on the road. He is the reason why people hate motorcyclists.

  6. Riding or driving dirty is a choice – buried licence plates, phony plates, no licence or insurance – I will not and cannot condone these acts.
    Covid has made it worse. I live near the Don Valley Parkway and every night of the week it sounds like Daytona Speedway.
    The police seem powerless or don’t have the will to stop it. Clamp down hard – please – for the welfare of us all…

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