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Free at Last

To settle the children in his class down and to help them feel comfortable with the history lesson about Dr. Martin Luther King and his “Dream” speech, the teacher asked them what they knew about Dr. King. One of the boys spoke up and said, "He changed the rules."

The rules are not the same for cars and motorcycles. We are oppressed on the road. We are much more vulnerable on the road with less protection from the elements and flying objects; not to mention the effects of a crash. Our motorcycles are less stable than the other vehicles on the highway and require us to keep them balanced. The smaller size of a motorcycle, even with the largest rider on it, is harder for others to see and makes it difficult for them to determine how far away it is and how fast it is moving.

"For the most part, other drivers don’t understand motorcycles."

For the most part, other drivers just don’t understand motorcycles. Many of them don’t understand the unique risks riders face in traffic and they don’t realize the importance of traction is maintaining control of a bike. They can’t figure out why such a small vehicle requires a full lane on the roadway or why it keeps moving all over that lane.

The myths and perceptions about motorcyclists have been established by the movies and the stereotype perpetuated over the years by biker behavior. The lure of the wild side may initially have drawn us to riding motorcycles. Non-riders often associate motorcyclists with gangs because we ride in packs. You rarely see a half dozen Chevys or Fords rolling down the road in a group.

Many non-riders also view motorcycles as toys and believe motorcycling is a recreational sport. This misperception is confirmed by many motorcycle dealers selling all terrain vehicles and personal water craft equipment alongside their bikes. The fact that in many areas motorcycles are not on the road all twelve months of the year validates the belief that they are seasonal playthings.

We have an opportunity to change the rules by educating other motorists about our uniqueness and helping them understand how motorcycles operate. We can guide them to seeing motorcycling as a legitimate means of transportation and not just a sport. One way to do this is by setting the example on the road. Obeying the laws and being courteous to other vehicles will enhance our credibility as serious motor vehicle operators deserving of equality on the road.

Until we can change the rules, we must also be aware of the differences in the rules of the road. Our very survival depends on us living by the rules imposed on us. As inequitable as they may seem to be, our vulnerability on the road mandates that we accept the conditions as they are until we can make the changes needed to be truly accepted as equals on the road.

Our battle will likely be a long one because our foes don't even seem to respect each other on the road. So we must continue to ride within the rules that bind us while we work to break those bonds keeping us from being seen and respected like any other vehicle on the road.

We will be free at last when the prejudicial view of motorcycles is replaced by a common set of rules for all vehicles and equal treatment on the road. Until then our freedom from crashes and injury comes from not pushing the rules currently forced on us, regardless of how unfair they may be.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!