When I heard a speeder had been caught traveling more than 300 kilometres per hour on the QEW in Ontario, I immediately thought it must have been a motorcycle, followed immediately by, “I hope that it wasn’t a motorcycle.” In truth, I did think it probably was a motorcycle. There are plenty of fast cars out there and 308 kmh is fast—it was three times the posted speed limit—but there are by far more motorcycles than cars with the capacity of hitting that kind of speed. Mind you, a Honda Civic in “R” trim is capable of 270.
Where exactly do you start to understand what 308 kmh actually means? It is equivalent to 85 metres per second. In the time it took you to read “85 metres per second” that vehicle had traveled more than the length of a football field.
In 11 seconds it has traveled almost a kilometre. There are remarkably few opportunities for making considered decisions and correcting errors at that speed. From experiences on the track approaching those speeds, if you see a corner approaching, you have to be very sure of your line and braking before you get there.
A few years ago there was a stir when a motorcyclist in Victoria weaved in and out of traffic on the edge of town, riding the centre line, changing lanes all over while exceeding 299 kmh. The news and the self-posted video went viral, but police could not definitively prove who was behind the camera while the bike was speeding.
In April a motorcyclist in Victoria was pulled over for reaching a speed of 140 kmh, which isn’t obscenely fast except when you are riding in a 50-kmh zone. The fines totaled over $1,300 and the bike was impounded. The rider did not have a motorcycle licence or insurance. Between March 7 and April 7, 2020, Victoria municipal police impounded 16 vehicles for exceeding 40 kmh. Three riders had almost doubled the posted speed and one was doing so in a construction zone.
Police say this compares to two impoundments in the same period last year and the explanation may be that during this pandemic the roads are far less busy which encourages some drivers to pick up the pace.
So speeding is a problem. It turns out, with a wave of accompanying relief, the Ontario speeder was not on a motorcycle but driving his parents’ AMG Mercedes: the skunkworks version of the big German coupe. He assured officers he felt comfortable at that speed and the car could have gone faster. Maybe the fact that it was dark kept him below 309 kmh.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt in any of the above speeder scenarios, which absolutely does not make the behaviour acceptable. But it was a relief the QEW incident didn’t involve a motorcycle especially during “May is Motorcycle Awareness Month” and thus create the wrong kind of awareness.
It seems cars get more leeway than motorcycles when speeds reach ludicrous levels. The question, “Why can motorcycles even go that fast?” arises much faster than it does about cars—even a 270-kmh capable Honda Civic. Motorcyclists are a much smaller segment of the driving population, therefore easier to single out.
Ultimately, I won’t tell you how fast to ride, but just ask you to sagely consider where you are riding. And yes, 308 kmh is much too fast unless you are on a track, no matter how “comfortable” you are feeling that day.