On Balance  

How do you like your eggs?

It's August, an uneasy time, breakfast too often comes with bad news about how it's going out there for motorcyclists.

I've been thinking about the reasons why. And eggs, but we'll get to that in a bit. 

About the motorcyclists: rider safety doesn't get a lot of ongoing attention, but when it does, a couple of themes pretty much always come up.

The first is that new riders should take a course. I teach said courses, so I'm pretty happy about that one.

The local dealerships have been helpful with getting that advice out, so a big thank you to Colin, and Jay, and all the rest of our supporters in the retail world who are trying to look after people instead of just throwing them to the wolves.

Well done, you.

And well done, too, all the family members who have pushed that message, and made sure their loved ones get safety training first, instead of just throwing a leg over and wobbling off down the road. 

The second theme is that the main problem for riders is the behaviour of drivers of other vehicles.

True enough, the mistakes and the attitudes of other drivers are a concern for every road user, not just motorcyclists, so we are going to take that seriously. Sadly, though, the main problem for riders isn't other vehicle operators’

It is us.

What we get up to on the bike, whether there's anyone else around, is mainly what determines who goes to hospital today, and who doesn't.

The BC Coroners office, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and ICBC are all pretty clear on the point, so it's well past time we started to pay closer attention to the rider.

That is what I'm doing over breakfast, or brunch actually, but  usually there's food and coffee and news.

And the news is (too often) that another rider has been killed or injured because they lost control of their bike, and wound up tangling with oncoming traffic, or some roadside furniture.

Usually without much in the way of protective or preventive equipment.

My concern about this is the "who.”

These are not, as it turns out, people who have suddenly jumped on a bike for the very first time and rushed out into harm's way. Not people who were told 20  minutes ago to take a course, but blew off the advice.  Nosiree!

These are people, overwhelmingly men, who have been riding motorcycles for a long time, who "know what they're doing,” and who evidently didn't.


The biggest group is between 40 and 60 years old, not 19; old enough to know better, you'd think.

Whenever I'm forced from the hermitage, I see before me a parade of fellow riders who may or may not have taken a course, but for whom the core elements of rider safety in the modern world remain a closed book. Plainly experienced riders, but demonstrating what so many professional riding coaches have said over the years:

you can ride for 20 years, but in terms of learning about riding, if you swallow your pride and go take a course, or another course, you find pretty fast that you just rode one year, 20 times.

Practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent.

To get better, you have to learn the right things to practice. See Jerry Paladino, Ride Like a Pro, on the point.

What I see confirms what I hear from our students and what I read all the time.

People ride motorcycles as a social activity; they ride because their friends or family or people they relate to ride. Their practice, if you will.

What they ride, how and when they ride, and what they wear while they're at it, are all really, really strongly influenced by other riders.

Peer pressure, as it turns out, isn't just for teenagers.

All those rugged individuals out there (that would be us, guys) are ruggedly and individualistically doing what they see a whole bunch of other rugged individuals doing.

Not so individual then. Not the lone horseman on the windswept prairies after all. 

My point is this: obviously, safety for the experienced rider isn't just about experience, and it isn't about what, or how, "everybody else" is riding. That approach doesn't get any better results than letting somebody else make other decisions for you, how you like your eggs, for instance.

Remember Julia Roberts, in Runaway Bride? Oh, come on, you watched it together, she figured out to cook eggs all kinds of different ways and find out what she liked, instead of just going with what the boyfriend ate.  

So, what the crashes and injuries out on the road are telling me is that it isn't by any means just new riders who need to take a course and learn something new, maybe something about themselves.

Experienced riders, who "know what they're doing,” should think pretty seriously about taking a step back, and deciding to go find out what the story really is about what makes actual safety and skill, and what's maybe just plain luck or somebody else's dumb idea. Their eggs.

I did, by the way. Wound up teaching it in the long run, but that's another story. You can, too.

The Safety Council has courses for experienced riders, and that's a place where you can just focus on what actually works for you, instead of just hoping your brother was right about those tires, or that bike, or that way around the corner.

Your eggs, your way. 


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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