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#324 The Tenth Circle of Hell

The Ministry of Smith has had enough of miscreants, scofflaws and general bad road behaviour. There must be consequences.

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time
To let the punishment fit the crime…

So sang Ko-Ko in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado. When the day comes that I’m the supremo of transportation affairs, the punishment really will fit the crime!

1. I don’t care how much you love your dog, driving with him on your lap is just plain stupid. Fido could easily interfere with the controls—and how do you think he’d like getting nailed by an air bag? Offenders get to be a crash test dummy in a Reliant Robin. And all quadrupeds will be required to be in the back seat, either restrained or in a travel crate.

2. Texting drivers will have the option of eating their phone or having it inserted where the sun don’t shine. Repeat offenders get one of those brick-size carphones from the 1970s instead.

3. Turn signal scofflaws will be surgically implanted with electrodes that deliver 7,000 volts every time they spin the steering wheel—unless their turn signal is already on. Think of it as aversion therapy, like an anti-barking collar.

4. Motorhome drivers almost never use turnouts to let faster traffic pass. Miscreants will be required to drive at four miles per hour behind a pedestrian waving a red flag.

5. Failure to stop at a red light (turning right or not), a stop sign or an unmarked four-way intersection will deploy a nail belt…

More good ideas
6. Because most drivers don’t even see motorcycles, learning to ride a motorcycle and passing a street riding test will be a pre-requisite for getting a learner drivers’ licence.

7. All drivers will be required to retake their driving test every five years. Special emphasis will be on: traffic circles; using the left lane only to pass; and why you don’t change lanes in an intersection!

8. Because almost all cars now have ABS, but plenty of motorcycles don’t, all four-wheelers will be fitted with variable brake lights. That is, the harder a driver pushes on the brake pedal, the brighter the light.

9. Variable speed limits—now being introduced in BC—are a great idea. But what we need are variable passing areas, recognizing that motorcycles have considerably faster acceleration than most cars, and that motorcyclists usually have better sight lines and can therefore pass more safely.

10. Lane splitting and filtering for motorcycles will be legal—because it’s 2016!

Babes Ride Out
In English Speaking 322 (June 2016), I recommended viewing the GoPro documentary Babes Ride Out on YouTube. It’s essentially a celebration of women who ride motorcycles, and follows several riders to a rally in the Mojave Desert, and on to a group ride into the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs.
My first take: the more motorcyclists on the road, the better—and especially women. But there are a number of disturbing aspects of the movie that I felt I had to comment on.

The group ride includes what one of the organizers estimates at 150-300 motorcycles. From the aerial footage, they’re in a relatively tight formation. Cars trying to pass the phalanx inevitably have to cut in; and there’s plenty of sassy, middle-finger response from the gals, many of whom have eschewed gloves and jackets in the warm sun. Goading drivers is never a good idea: you can’t know their state of mind.

The ride goes over California 74 from Palm Desert to Mountain Center and 243 on to Idyllwild. I know this stretch of highway well. Between Mountain Center and Idyllwild, it’s a cliffside scramble of deceptive turns, blind bends and indifferent surfacing. The inevitable happens: Diamond Schiffers crashes her bike and ends up in the hospital. (The closing credits tell us she’s on the mend.)
My first rule of riding in a group is: DON’T. But if you must…

Organize the group into manageable units of five to six bikes at most. Riders need to be in staggered formation, to the left and right of the lane, spaced at least two seconds behind the rider ahead. And because any group ride is only as fast as the slowest rider, leave space for other vehicles to pass. Don’t assume you can rely on another rider to stay out of your way. Make sure you can see riders behind you in your mirrors.
But the biggest danger: nervous or inexperienced riders can get pushed faster than they’re comfortable, especially on a tight, winding road like 243. I’m not saying that’s why Schiffers crashed—the movie doesn’t make that clear—but it’s an omnipresent danger in a group ride. Ironically, one of the riders describes how she laid her own bike down before. Even that didn’t convince her to wear a jacket over her tank top.

Bottom line: ride your own ride. And I don’t care how hot it is—wear proper gear!


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