Come Ride with Me

If the people who make the laws, build the roads, design the bikes, and lobby for dangerous equipment like cellphones, ever rode a motorcycle with their eyes open, we think they would change their ways in a hurry, if only to protect their childdren and gra

There are people I've never met who I'd like to take for a ride sometime.

Like you California legislators who killed in committee a bill that would have banned handheld-cell phone use by drivers.

I'd like to bring you along on a ride through Los Angeles traffic. I think you should experience firsthand the adrenaline rush you get when, as you are overtaking an SUV driver talking on his cell, he suddenly changes lanes right into you. Because he is holding his phone to his left ear, he can't operate the turn signal, and having his arm in that position means that he can't turn his head to check traffic or even see his outside mirror very well. Because his mind is on his conversation, he isn't considering what could be in that big empty area he can't see. In many cases he doesn't even know that you had to lock up the brakes or swerve violently to avoid him. This is just one of many scenarios (and states) where cell-phone-using drivers put motorcyclists and others at risk. You legislators who value big bucks from the cellular phone industry over public safety should recognize your decision's effects. You should know that it has caused dozens, maybe hundreds, of deaths and injuries in California alone. And you cell phone purveyors should fully admit the problem as well.

I'd also like to get some of you folks at the motorcycle companies to come along on this ride.

I'd like you to see what a joke most of your damn horns are. When I mash on the button (well, on BMWs and Harleys I angrily honk the turn signal at transgressors much of the time) and this feeble bleat emanates from somewhere under the tank and the intruder having his phone conversation doesn't even notice, I wonder if you guys have some secret agenda and are trying to kill me. Listen to the bark of a Gold Wing horn. That's what we want on all our bikes.

I have a special treat for you legislators from Illinois and other states who think that the way to pay for interstate highways is to insert tollbooths every 20 miles.

In most states, these are known as roadblocks, and those of us who live in civilized places wonder what in the world inspired you to drop them across interstates in the first place. Were you afraid that someone might actually get somewhere? Aside from the counter-productivity of the concept, they are a real hazard for motorcyclists. First of all, as you approach, drivers are frantically changing lanes to get in the line that is shortest, doesn't need exact change, reads their transponders, or accepts Iranian T-bills as payment. The fact that there might be a motorcycle trying to negotiate the melee never occurs to most of them. Because the toll (40 cents) has been carefully chosen to require the maximum number of different coins, chances of having exact change is low. So you have to use the manual lane with the trucks. You have to stop, remove your gloves, dig out money (awkward at best, while straddling a big motorcycle) and present it. As the attendant gets change, you notice that the semi behind you is creeping ever closer. You get the change from your $20 back and while trying to stash the cash, you drop some of it. Leaning to get it, with the truck edging toward your taillight, you discover that there is no program to remove the oil that collects in the toll area and that rain can't wash it off because a roof covers it. You might discover this by dropping your bike right now or perhaps when, after taking so long to negotiate the toll process, you decide to show how hard a motorcycle can accelerate and you get stone sideways about two feet from where you stopped. Come along as my passenger; I think this will impress you even more than it does those watching. The idea of an additional half-cent tax on fuel will suddenly make a lot more sense than tollbooths.

Last week, while riding the Electra Glide along a back road in Tennessee, I wished some of you highway engineers would come ride with me.

I wanted you to appreciate what a nice, smooth, clean -- and amazingly slippery -- seal those plasticized crack sealers make. I wanted you to feel the big bike wriggle and slip as I negotiated the corners on the beautiful winding back road. I particularly hoped that we could make this ride in the rain, and, while we were skidding and sliding toward the edge of the road on those wet tar snakes, you'd get a chance to look out past the edge of the road and consider what was waiting there to catch us: sharp-edged signs and barriers, unyielding posts, and guard rails placed just high enough off the road so you can slide underneath them and break your bones on the support posts.

So you guys can't make it? I'm not surprised. However, someday in the future your child or grandchild will probably ride as a passenger. If you were wise, you'd worry now.

_Art Friedman
The above reflects the opinion of the author only. Readers are invited to can email Art Friedman at _ Art.Friedman@primedia.com _or at _ ArtoftheMotorcycle@hotmail.com.

Most motorcyclists have experienced the terror of a cell-phone-impaired driver who wanders out of his lane into theirs. Sometimes the results are deadly.
Hey there cell-phone makers who don't want a ban on cell-phone use by drivers! How would you feel about me taking your child for a ride on a motorcycle in this traffic with half those drivers distracted by your products?