Riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous. It’s just the cost of doing a thing we enjoy. Clueless, idiotic drivers texting and talking and generally (or literally) jerking off are part of the equation. It sucks. I know. But that doesn’t mean you’ve been deputized as The Enforcer. You’re not helping. And it’s time to drop this self-righteous shit already.
Nearly every week a helmet cam surfaces of a rider spotting some driver behaving badly. It’s inevitable. And it’s inevitably followed up by the tell-tale headshake, some expletives, and maybe an obscene gesture. Yes, most people are awful drivers. You know it. I know it. It’s a fact of life that can’t be avoided, whether you’re on two wheels or four.
But the inherent vulnerability of a bike compels some riders take their grievances to the next level. Adrenaline kicks in and a sanctimonious attitude takes over, building up to a tenor that no one would put up with in any civil setting (this kind of shit would never fly in a bar or restaurant). It’s dangerous. And stupid. And the results are entirely predictable.
Here’s just two examples that have popped up in the last week to prove the point.
The first comes from the crew at RideApart, which inexplicably gave the rider, Samuel Ayres, a soapbox to stand on after he reprimanded a BMW convertible driver (of course) for playing with his phone at a traffic light. And then the guy clipped him down the road.
From the video’s YouTube description:
As I was filtering up to the front of a light, I noticed one particular man in a black BMW convertible. He was very busy texting and talking away on his mobile phone. He became visibly angry when I told him to put down his cell phone while he was in his car.
You might become “visibly angry” too if someone came out of nowhere and started dropping F-bombs. Ayres might, too. But I certainly understand the urge. Still...
The BMW driver’s reaction and the ensuing assault – which, according to Ayres, resulted in a concussion, two hairline fractures on his left shoulder and a broken foot – is basically attempted vehicular homicide.
This asshole needs to go to jail.
But how culpable is Ayres in spurring the situation to begin with? Did he believe that berating the driver would actually change his behavior forever? Would that one interaction start a cascade of circumstances in which BMW Man tells his friends about the motorcyclist that finally opened his eyes to the dangers of distracted driving? Or was Ayres just pissed – as many of us are – that drivers aren’t focusing on the task at hand, putting our lives at risk in the process, and he decided to finally say something?
I’m going with the latter, because again, I’ve been there.
However, that conceited idea that he could somehow change things is just further indication of the twisted sense of superiority some of us feel while on bike – that we choose to ride – despite the risks it poses.
Then there’s this flaming asshat. He’s riding to the left of a black SUV, thinks the driver could veer into his lane (we’re invisible, after all), and rather than ease off the gas and honk his horn, he twists the throttle, bounces the engine off the rev-limiter, and blows by, calling the lady behind the wheel “a dummy.” And that’s where the civility ended. (Warning: Offensive, disgusting language above).
After she blasts past him, he follows up to the driver’s side of the SUV, slams on the window, threatens the driver (“I’ll rip your fucking face off”), and calls her a series of revolting names. All while stopping traffic. And all while her terrified son sits in the passenger seat.
There’s no excuse for this kind of aggression.
It’s born out of being in a position of risk, but it also smacks of ego and arrogance. Just the fact that these videos are proudly posted as some kind of trophy collected in their quest to rid the world of idiocy comes off as a strange amalgamation of schadenfreude and narcissism. One rider, out to save the world, and call a woman a “dumb bitch” and “glassy-eyed crackhead.” Or another, who after initiating the situation that lead to his injuries, now wants you to pay for his bills.
It’s easy to adopt this holier-than-thou attitude on a bike. We see everything because we have to be hyper-aware. We know people (friends, loved ones) that have been hurt or killed by careless – and sometimes unrepentant – drivers. The risk of dying beneath the wheel of the hapless masses is engrained in us early. It’s something we understand. And sometimes, that constant risk avoidance gets the best of us.
But I’m convinced we’re better than these assholes make us out to be. Maybe we need to take a dedicated motorcyclist anger management class. Or just stick to dirt bikes. Or take a breath and accept the cosmic idiocy of the universe. Because what some of us are doing right now isn’t helping. In fact, it’s making the situation far, far worse.
Illustration by Sam Woolley
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org