Lisa's Motorcycle Page

Motorcycles: The Environmentally Sound Choice

Lisa's Motorcycling Homepage

Why do I ride a motorcycle? For the same reason that I bike: it's extremely environmentally sound, and I'm quite a naturalist. It lets me experience the world I drive through. If I'm going to go leaf watching for a few hours, why should I pollute the environment and burn through gas, while gazing at nature through sealed glass? A motorcycle is like a road-capable horse :) Think about it! On one gallon of gas you go 50+ miles, use Far fewer other chemicals, only use 2 tires. It could only be better if it was solar/electric (too expensive for most of us so far). This Quiz gives environmental points for motorcycling!

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation Guide:
A must for every motorcycle rider
Some people think "Motorcycles are so dangerous!", without knowing anything about the actual risks. These same people would then drop their kids into the ocean without a thought, or drive a car without ever practicing "difficult handling" situations!! Any activity has a certain risk level, which you work and practice to minimize. This includes skiing, mountain biking, even hiking in New England. Sure, some drunken, untrained fools wrap their motorcycles around trees. Some people die ice skating, too! The trick to living well is to research your activities and understand them.

I take motorcycling seriously. Bob and I researched riding for 6 months, signed up for the best course in the area, and practice constantly. He put over 5,000 miles on the bike the first year alone. This is no different for us than any other "activity which involves some risk" - say, car driving!! For people who think motorcycle riding is dangerous, I'd ask them to think about how they drive their cars every day.

How do I drive a car? I take driving lessons, and every year as winter comes I practice skid control and other icy condition handling in a parking lot. Everyone should. How can a driver expect to handle these conditions if the driver never practices them! It's better to learn under controlled conditions rather than when you skid on a highway. When driving, I play "what if" games constantly, keep my eyes on the road. I follow simple safety measures like never shifting in an intersection and never braking on a curve. I waited after a year of driving my car before I took any passengers, and the same holds true with our motorcycles. I drive over 35,000 miles a year, and every mile is driven carefully. Because, of course, the first mile I stop watching the side of the road, that's the mile the deer family will be wanting to cross.
A Twist of the Wrist:
Keith Code's excellent primer on the physics of riding.

Any motor vehicle has risk. Any rational person can work, constantly, to minimize this risk. I strongly feel our motorcycle riding is far safer than many car drivers we know :). If you're a driver or a rider, think about what you're doing. Make sure you're doing it well, take training, pay attention. It's not just your own life, it's the rest of us out here, too! :)

Facts are facts. What are the statistics? They give great news for intelligent, educated riders:
  • 92% of all motorcycle accidents involve untrained riders.
  • 50% of all motorcycle fatalities involve alcohol.
  • One out of five motorcycles riders that got into fatal accidents in 1996 had an invalid license.
  • More than 50% of the motorcycle accident-involved riders had less than five months' riding experience or less than 500 miles of motorcycle riding experience.
  • Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly over-represented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are significantly under-represented.
  • Riders getting into accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems, such as overbraking of the rear wheel and underbraking of the front. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent.

If you must use a gas-consuming, atmosphere-polluting vehicle (visions of black smoke rolling across a pristine countryside inserted here) instead of just biking somewhere, consider if you can use a motorcycle instead of a car. Many campuses and cities actively encourage motorcycling instead of car driving for that very reason. If you take the same common-sense precautions that you should take with your car, you will be doing the environment a big favor and get some enjoyment in the process!

Remember, though, no matter what motor vehicle you drive: practice and study. Take lessons with certified instructors. Pay attention to the road at all times!! If you ride a motorcycle, wear protective clothing! I wince when I see "squibs" riding in jeans and a tshirt. Every time we get on a motorcycle, we wear a full surround helmet, kevlar jacket, kevlar gloves, high boots. Just in case a deer wants to visit us :) Also, get a bike with some power and a good safety record. A wimpy bike, just like a wimpy car, can't get of it's own way and in "danger situations" can't avoid or swerve or escape. That's why we started right with a 650cc motorcycle.

(Lisa lapses into her tirade against Parentalism in Government)
I'm weary of untrained people wanting to pass laws against "dangerous motorcycles", just like I'm weary of people getting into car accidents, hurting others, and saying, "Ooops, I didn't look to my left," or "I thought I could stop on a sheet of ice." Know what you're doing. What are car drivers doing driving a solid metal object at 60mph if they're not willing to take responsibility for being trained, doing it safely, and paying attention? What are "I've never ridden at all" people doing, assuming that their bad (non-existent) skills are equivalent to the skills of us riders who take the time and make the effort to do it safely? Learn to drive both well. Practice and pay attention. This is Real Life.
(OK, I'm better now ...)

Lisa's Motorcycling Homepage