Monday, November 07, 2011

Death Trap Fancy

Is the Era of the Motorcycle Over? asks Frederick Seidel in the NYTimes.

I hope so.

He suggests that young men are buying iPhones instead of motorcycles, because both have sleek glamor. I don't think that's why, but even if it was, that's fine - your iPhone won't kill you (no definitive connection between cell phones and cancer has been found) and it won't kill your friends. You can't say that about motorcycles. I knew two people who were killed thanks to a motorcycle - the first was Peggy, the sister of my friend Craig, who flew off the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle. The boyfriend survived.

The second was my dear Earl Rich who didn't see an oncoming pickup truck make a sudden left-hand turn in front of him until it was too late.

My brother Kevin was almost injured by a motorcyclist who was driving in the oncoming lane and whose boot got caught in the lane divider - the motorcyclist went flying across two lanes of traffic and landed on my brother's windshield. The boot, with foot inside, remained wedged in the lane divider. The motorcyclist died and if my brother had been on a motorcycle instead of a car, he would probably have been killed too.

How dangerous are motorcycles? The Traffic Safety website has the facts:
  • Motorcycles are the most dangerous type of motor vehicle to drive. These vehicles are involved in fatal crashes at a rate of 35.0 per 100 million miles of travel, compared with a rate of 1.7 per 100 million miles of travel for passenger cars.

  • Motorcyclists were 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash in 2006, per vehicle mile traveled, and 8 times more likely to be injured.

  • Approximately 80% of motorcycle crashes injure or kill a motorcycle rider, while only 20% of passenger car crashes injure or kill a driver or passenger in their vehicle.
More fun facts on the web site.

The Traffic Safety site also mentions that more people over 40 and more women are driving motorcycles now. I'm sure that does nothing to help the cachet of driving a motorcycle now that it isn't something cool young guys mostly do. God knows plenty of men over 40 on online dating sites like to post pictures of themselves with their motorcycles - or even better just their motorcycles. Clearly over-40 guys believe it makes them look desirable to own a motorcycle.

Unlike the glory days of motorcycles, women are now much more likely to own their own vehicles - because they are more likely to have jobs. They aren't as likely to need a man to drive them around and have less patience to be driven around on a vehicle that permits neither conversation nor driving in inclement weather. Motorcycles are a luxury in which the costs have outweighed the benefits of coolness.

Seidel ends his paen to motorcycles this way:
In Dallas, at Advanced Motorsports, his motorcycle dealership, Jeff Nash, a gentleman and one of the great Ducati racebike tuners in America, and a racer himself, deplores the passivity of the young who would rather be home with their iPads playing computer games than astride the red-meat lightning of an 1198 Superbike blazing down a Texas highway making that unmistakable growling deep Ducati sound. Mr. Nash would go further.

Better to be out in the air astride just about any motorcycle alive!

But if he really wants young men to be outside, what's wrong with walking? What's wrong with skateboards? With rollerblades? With bicycles? All give you more exercise, make almost no noise, burn no fossil fuels, and are much, much safer.

No, the key to what Seidel really wants is the word "red-meat" - Seidel gives fuck-all for the great outdoors, what Seidel longs for is a return to manly macho. He should just come out and say it, instead of presenting himself as some kind of advocate of freedom and physical activity. It's his dissembling which reveals why he truly needs a motorcycle to make him feel all virile - because actually, he's a wimp.