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.