Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About On The Mark

Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us.

Name: Mark Byers

Current Rides: 'Honestly, his stable is in such a constant flux that we can't keep track of it. If you need to know, just ask him.

Favorite quote:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

- Winston Churchill


Recently, there were several motorcycle accidents in my area, some of them fatal. Based on news reports, some were the result of the motorcycle pilots doing questionable things and others were the result of drivers doing questionable things. A couple of the causes were inexplicable and perhaps the result of animals who didn’t have the good grace to hang around the scene to make statements - we may never know.

There are people, however, who know. In fact, they know and see everything. If you have ever read the “comments” section below an article on your local news’ Internet page, you will recognize these omniscient beings as regular posters. No matter the subject, they have a ready judgment and a large bag of comments with which to back up their verdicts, whether factual or not. Their pronouncements range from the merely ignorant to the outright cruel. If you ever want to experience the extreme nadir – the absolute bottom of the barrel – of humanity, you don’t need to go any farther than the comments section.OTM

Motorcycles are a favorite whipping boy of theirs and they apparently possess a vast knowledge of motorcycle physics and rider behavioral psychology that allows them to pronounce judgment on every accident. If a sportbike is involved, whether the rider came to grief from a u-turning truck (as one did recently) or not, the verdict is quickly and inevitably given as “those guys are always going too fast and they deserve to die and all sportbikes should be banned.” There will be several personal observations of past sportbike transgressions given as support, whether they match the circumstances of the crash or not, and smug sycophants will chime in with “Amen, brothers” and similar shows of support.

One could simply ignore them, and I largely do, but there is a sad and scary fact about people with nothing better to do than sit around all day making ignorant comments on news articles: they vote and they serve on juries. The fact is, if you ride a sportbike and have an accident, whether you go to criminal or civil court, you will have the odds stacked against you thanks to a jury populated by people who think you deserve to die because of your choice of transportation. At the polls, you’ll fare no better, because every soccer mom in creation has been scared by some ass on a sportbike or had her ears assailed by a loud pipe. Logic and fact will have nothing to do with it.

It doesn’t stop with sportbikes: all motorcyclists are apt to be victims of a completely biased view of them by any jury or voting block. Studies have shown that damages awarded in civil cases, even when the motorcyclist was not at fault, are significantly reduced compared to those for automobile drivers. The prevailing attitude among non-riders is that you chose to do something “dangerous” and even though it wasn’t your fault that you were hurt, you deserve a certain amount of pain for your choice. Ask any non-rider and they will have a “horror story” to tell about an incident that makes them believe that motorcycles are the Safety Antichrist.

There’s no sense fighting them: commenting on the commenters is like wrestling the proverbial pig – it does no good, it gets you muddy, it wastes your time, and the pig likes the attention. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the comments section of the paper or your Homeowner’s Association FaceBook page, the emotion-driven shouters will bury you in a blizzard of electronic snow so deep that the most factual snow shovel will be useless. It’s frustrating as hell, but it’s true.

The one bright spot of which I know in this situation is the advent of cameras: whether helmet-worn or handlebar-mounted, a good camera that records your surroundings and actions can be of significant help if you need to support your case in court against the tide of motorcycle naysayers (assuming you’re behaving). On the other hand, be prepared to present your case against a public who has been fed a constant stream of YouTube videos of motorcyclists being jackasses, wheelying down interstates, standing on their seats, blocking traffic, running from cops, and so forth. And as for bias, be prepared for the presence of a camera on your helmet or your bike to be a source of bias on the part of a cop who probably believes you’re making a YouTube video yourself. There’s plenty of ignorance to go around.