By Brian Lange
In January, it was decided to celebrate May being Motorcycle Awareness Month by doing a ride from Tacoma to Olympia to draw attention to motorcycle riders and awareness of riders on the roadways. Then, came the Coronavirus, and all the issues that have accompanied it. Originally the ride was going to end at the Capitol in Olympia, but with the Patriot Rally taking place at the Capitol on the same day, and the streets leading onto the Capitol campus barricaded, the plan was changed to move down to Sylvester Park on Capitol Blvd.
On a beautiful hot May 9th, riders from across Washington State began to gather at Eagle Leather in Lakewood/Tacoma. As the parking lot began to fill up, the leadership of ABATE explained the change in plans as well as explaining how the ride to Olympia would go. Scott Robinson, ABATE State Deputy Coordinator described the ride down Interstate 5 to insure a safe group ride down to Olympia.
With approximately 100 motorcycles leaving Eagle Leather’s parking lot, and riding down the middle lane of Interstate 5 with the sun shining down so intensely, we drew the attention of other highway users. If only it was as easy for one or two riders to have other drivers be as aware of them on the road as a large group of motorcycles. Perhaps someday.
As the group of riders came up onto Capitol Boulevard and turned down the street past the Patriot Rally at the Capitol, there was a definite reaction of people at the rally to all the bikes passing by. Sadly, many at the Patriot Rally thought that the bikes were all riding by in support of their rally. When the group arrived in Sylvester Park, everyone gathered before the gazebo in the refreshing shade of the trees lining the park. Several members of ABATE of Washington made speeches and discussed the importance of building awareness, in the public and within the state agencies, of motorcycles and our inherently different needs compared to automobiles.
It isn’t enough to once a year, in May, attempt to promote awareness of motorcycles. It is up to every motorcyclist to find a way every day to teach someone something about motorcycles they didn’t know. It is up to us as riders to educate people about the differences between motorcycles and automobiles. Not just in how they look, or how to try to look out for us, but even down to the basics of the differences in how we travel down the road.
We need to get people to realize that cars have about the same contact area with the road as four dinner plates, while motorcycles generally have less than two Coke cans worth of contact area, and often less if we are in a curve. How a motorcycle turns at normal speed by leaning into the curve, not just turning the handlebars. People need to realize that motorcycles can lose traction going across the wet paint used to mark roadways if it isn’t non-skid paint, or while riding around a curve filled with rain grooves. How safety devices designed to break away when hit by a car may not give at all when hit by a motorcycle or worse, its rider. All the differences between motorcycles and cars, and trucks are what we truly need to make people aware of when we talk about motorcycle awareness.
How do we as riders get that awareness across to other people on the road? One of the ways mentioned was through civil disobedience in mass groups. Such as a large percentage of the riders did, coming down from Tacoma; they rode without their helmets in protest. With the Patriot Rally also going on, no law enforcement or media left their posts and came to Sylvester Park so little attention was gained during the ride.
Perhaps it will take a gathering of many of the various types of motorcycles coming together in a large diverse group. Perhaps it will take meeting together at some large public area, then riding en masse through a densely populated urban area to another designated public area. All riding together in a large group, taking up both lanes of traffic, but obeying all the traffic laws, and not exceeding the posted speed limit. Peacefully making a demonstration and increasing awareness of motorcycles, simply by coming together and riding together.
Not hot-dogging, or doing anything else that would effectively give the motorcycling community a black eye, or shoot ourselves in the foot. There may be a time and a place for that, but there is also a time and a place to do nothing wrong and by doing that, still make our presence felt just by passing through.
If awareness is the desired goal, then we as motorcyclists must come together and give people a reason to be aware of us.
Catch you on the road sometime…