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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Chris Cope's great motorcycle manifesto


I've found myself reading a handful of law/safety-related stories recently (here, here, here and here) and it's gotten me thinking about the Right Way To Do Things. Obviously, the Right Way To Do Things is my way, because I'm brilliant and I have all the answers. One day people will recognise this and I will ascend to my rightful place as Emperor of the United States.

When that day finally comes, here's what things will look like for people on two wheels:

Helmets

Helmets are mandatory for riders and passengers on roads where the speed limit is greater than 45 mph. They are strongly encouraged in all other riding situations, and money raised from non-compliance fines helps fund campaigns to educate the public on the merits of riding with a helmet.

Riders and passengers under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet at all times. Additionally, a helmet is required when a rider of any age is filtering/lane-splitting through traffic, regardless of posted speed limit. 

The helmet, or a combination of helmet and approved eye protection, must cover at least 60 percent of the rider's skull, the skull being defined as containing both the cranium and the mandible. In simple terms, this means those ridiculous beanie helmets are not sufficient.

Safety gear

Safety gear above and beyond a helmet is not required but is encouraged. To incentivise its use, licensed motorcyclists are eligible to reclaim at least half of the sales tax on all safety-related gear, e.g. gloves, jackets, Kevlar jeans, etc.

Use of reflective clothing at night is particularly encouraged. To this end, the standard DOT sticker required on the back of all helmets is reflective and features a 2-inch-by-3-inch U.S. flag.

Training

Motorcycle training is not required but is strongly encouraged. To incentivise riders to take part in training courses, the insurance rates for those who have not undergone training is at least 15 percent higher for the first two years of possessing a license. 

A qualifying training course must offer a minimum of 2 hours classroom instruction and 15 hours on-the-bike instruction. At least 5 hours of that on-the-bike instruction must take place on public roads. Instructors must renew their certification every five years.

After receiving training, riders are automatically eligible for a provisional license that heavily restricts where, when and what they can ride without an instructor, but that allows ample time (two years) for the rider to practice before taking his or her test.

Driver training courses require no less than 4 hours of motorcycle-specific training.

Licensing

License testing is conducted in the same third-party manner as car licenses. In other words, instructors (who may otherwise have a vested interest) are not allowed to issue tests to their students. Testing consists of three parts: a simple written exam ensuring riders know the rules of the road, an on-the-bike exam on a closed course that focuses on specific manoeuvres (e.g., U turn, parking, etc.), and an on-the-bike assessment that takes place on public roads. 

Licenses are issued on a tiered system:

  • A rider holds a Tier 1 license after successfully completing his or her motorcycle exams. The holder of a Tier 1 license is restricted to vehicles with no more than 47 bhp.
  • After 2 years, assuming the rider's driving record is clean, his or her license will automatically be upgraded to Tier 2 status. If the rider has been cited for speeding, dangerous riding or other major traffic offenses, the Tier 2 upgrade will be applied 2 years after the date of the most recent citation. The holder of a Tier 2 license is restricted to vehicles producing 100 bhp or less.
  • After 2 more years, again assuming a clean record, the rider's license is automatically upgraded to Unrestricted status. At this point, he or she is free to ride a motorcycle of any power output.
  • The licensing system is applied irrespective of age, placing the emphasis on actual experience rather than perceived maturity.
  • DUI or DWI convictions result in the automatic revocation of an individual's motorcycle license. To regain his or her license, the rider must again go through the examination process and work his/her way back up through the tiered licensing system. An individual's motorcycling privileges are permanently revoked if he or she receives three DUI/DWI convictions.

Laws

Passenger accommodation: Any motorcycle carrying a passenger for any distance on a public road must be adequately equipped to do so. This means, at minimum, foot pegs and approved hand holds. Passengers may be of any age but must be able to reach the foot pegs.

Filtering: Filtering or lane splitting is permitted on all public roads. Riders must never cross a double yellow line. Riders engaged in the act of filtering must be wearing a helmet. When filtering, riders must not exceed the speed limit and must not ride at a speed that is more than 30 mph greater than the speed of surrounding traffic.

Special lanes: Motorcycle-specific lanes are strongly encouraged in city planning and incentivised with federal funding. Motorcycles are always permitted in HOV and bus lanes. Electric and 50cc scooters with a maximum speed limit of 30 mph are permitted to use bicycle greenways, where they must adhere to posted speed limits.

Parking: All public parking areas must allocate no less than two motorcycle-specific parking spaces. Reasonable effort must be made to ensure that these spaces are visible from within the business for which the parking exists. In downtown areas, cities must allocate at least 10 free motorcycle-specific parking spaces for every 100,000 residents.

Insurance: Except in cases of Tier 1 license holders who have not received training, insurance rates on a motorcycle must be at least 20 percent less than rates on comparable insurance for a car. Riders who receive advanced training after attaining Unrestricted license status receive rates that are at least 25 percent less.

Comments

  1. All Hail His MotoMajesty! May his shiny side remain forever up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suspect you may be in the minority on that one. Nice to have you on board, though.

      Delete
  2. You forgot to mention speed limits for motorcycles should also be higher than for cars

    ReplyDelete
  3. There's nothing disagreeable here. You can be emperor of America as far as I'm concerned.

    ReplyDelete

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