Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mopeds, Scooters and Motorcycle Safety Awareness

There was a recent article in the Nashua Telegraph about a 72 year old man trying to navigate the streets of the city on his moped.

After reading this story, I could see many stories behind the story that point to so many contemporary issues of our times. Some of these stories are more sobering than the surface story will tell you. In the article 72 year old Bob Lavoie is trying to save on gas while commuting to his TWO jobs by riding his new scooter which tops out at 30 MPH. Bob still has a mortgage to pay and despite being 72, retirement is out of the question. First sobering comment about our times? There is no such thing as retirement.

The second observation is that Bob is staying off the “rolls.” He is an independent man, taking care of his own affairs, earning a living as best he can and keeping himself and his wife from the poor house. It points to his self respect and pride at being a contributing member of society. I have a great respect for him on this point.

The story of course is about the scooter slowing down commuter traffic, the people who are irritated, and even how some pull along side and make disparaging remarks. Some of these remarks are made while he is actually traveling in a 30 mph speed zone. The article explains that because the scooter is classified as a moped, it cannot travel on the highways. Bob is knowledgeable about the rules of the road and obeys them at all times. He has even discovered some flaws in the placement of road signs that thwart his daily commute. All legitimate observations, which despite trying to have them corrected was told he would have to foot the bill to have a sign moved.

There has been a tremendous growth in small engine two wheeled transportation as a direct result of escalating gas prices. Some of these people have not had adequate training in navigating our roadways on two wheels. This poses a danger to them as well as cagers. While the hazards are real, the spotlight it brings to motorcycling may well benefit those of us whose choice of transportation is based on our love of motorcycling.

How will it benefit motorcyclist? If the general public becomes more aware of the two wheeled travelers that share the road, are exposed to the dangers that threaten them and us, we may find more travelers who use caution and are more observant while driving. Exposure through public media is also helpful. Bob put himself “out there” to expose a glaring concern that we should all pay attention too. Also, this past season, I have seen across the country, media campaigns to educate the public on motorcycle awareness. These are steps in the right direction but more needs to be done.

On my daily commute I often find myself along side an older gentleman riding a 1975 Honda CB125S.
From Misc
This photo is exactly what this bike looks like. It appears to be in great shape, and the rider flows along the stop and go corridor I travel without apparent trouble. His attire however is another matter. Mister 125S does not wear any protective riding gear. He is dressed in street shoes, twill slacks, windbreaker, and a helmet the same vintage as his bike.

From Misc

How do I know this helmet is from 1975? My husband has one he keeps as a memento and I recognized immediately. In New Hampshire motorcycle helmets are not required by law. However, since Mister 125S is wearing one, I can assume he would like the protection it brings. If this is so, he should toss the 1975 helmet in the trash bin. Helmets should be replaced every three to five years, and for a variety of other reasons. Check out the MSF link for more information about helmet safety.

Those of us who take motorcycling seriously need to be less timid about approaching these newbies. We often think we should mind our own business. I say this is our business. There are polite ways to strike up a conversation, and find opportunities to slip in concerns about safety, helpful hints about gear, or even suggest a motorcycle safety course. Don’t forget to compliment them on conserving energy and share your own enthusiasm for motorcycling. Like Bob Lavoie, they could be the next spokesperson for motorcycle safety awareness.

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