I grew up on a Harley. Just a toddler. My earliest recollections were of straddling the gas tank. Holding on for dear life while my biker Dad gunned it. Full-throddle. Nine beers…and no helmet (that would be the title of his book, if he wrote one). Now, if you have a child on a motorcycle who is under 5 years of age, they must be wearing a helmet and riding in a side-car. Of course, babies under 1 year, in a car seat in that side-car…facing backwards…that’s just so bugs don’t get in their eyes. Having a biker for a Father, I am probably a bit more sensitive about looking out for bikers on the road. My Dad just sold his last Harley. All that remains of his biker days are his tattoos and arthritis from all those broken bones over the years. He’s 74 now and has so many tattoos, he’s too self-conscious to swim in his own pool. And those pins and rods, holding all of those broken bones together…he’s like the 6 million dollar man. Only we call him the $250 man… and it really pisses him off. Oh, and the arthritis! In an Illinois winter, you don’t even want to be around him. Let’s put it this way… he could never play Santa.
Now, with gas prices at their all-time high, there are more motorcycles on the road. A lot of people bought a motorcycle to save money on commuting. Not to mention, a motorcycle is much easier on the environment than a car. Plus, you can get on the H.O.V. by yourself on a motorcycle. Not a bad deal, as opposed to being out there on the freeway, riding alongside a bunch of cars with drivers who are not paying one bit of attention and could take you out at any moment. So now, with more distractions in the car and more motorcycles on the road, it’s a lethal combination.
You may have noticed billboards and electronic signs that remind you to share the road and to look twice for motorcycles. It’s typically the driver of the car who is at fault and takes down the motorcyclist by not seeing them and cutting them off. Yes, you as the driver of a car may argue that some of those motorcyclists are popping wheelies and whipping in between lanes. But not everyone is. In defense of some of those bikers out there who are not hot-dogging it, but are lane-splitting, they’re probably just trying to get as far ahead of traffic as quickly as they can so they don’t put themselves in a bad situation. It is against the law in Texas to lane-split. But lane-splitting has been legal in California since the early 80’s. They are the only state that allows it. But don’t give up hope, Texas is looking into it. I don’t get on the freeway on a bike anymore. My sister Karla does. She’s got a thing for bikers. I was with her when she met her latest boyfriend. She pointed him out from across the bar. He was dressed in full leathers. Bandana on his head. Kinda cute. I had noticed him earlier because he had arrived in the parking lot when we did. He pulled up in a beat-up old Nova. The bumper sticker said “My Other Car’s a Porche” (Ya, right. And my boobs are in my other shirt). She said, “Check him out. Now he’s a real biker.” I’m like “He pulled up in a Nova. He doesn’t even own a bike. He’s a biker without a bike. He’s a loser.”
So, in Texas, if you are driving a car and you cut off a motorcyclist and they go down, it’s an automatic $500 fine. Me? I don’t think it’s high enough. I think the fine should be much higher and they should make people well aware that they need to be paying the heck attention out there! If the accident results in serious bodily injury or death to that motorcyclist, the fine is higher. Honestly, if someone goes down on the freeway on a bike, even if they survive it, there are other cars that may run over their body. So their chances of survival are slim. The Texas helmet law is another controversial subject. If you are 21, you don’t have to wear a helmet. But you must have proof that your insurance will cover a head injury. Most younger bikers I see are wearing helmets. It’s the burly old bikers, like my Dad that don’t wear a helmet. Guys my age and older. I’ve asked some of them that I know “Why would you not want to wear a helmet if you have a choice?” And some of them say the helmet messes with their peripheral vision or impairs their hearing. But the honest ones say they just don’t want to mess up their hairdoo. You ever see one of those old bikers and they have this long, beautiful flowing hair like a girl. From behind, you think they’re a girl. And when they turn around, they have this zz-top beard. And most of them my age have no hair where the helmet would go anyway. Typically, that part of their head is completely bald! Kind of like that Bret Michaels. You know there’s probably nothing under that bandana…just a bald head. He should just tattoo a bandana on his bald head!
We have a lot of motorcycles out there and we have to look twice for them. So look twice to save a life…motorcycles are everywhere.
Until next week…
( Daun Thompson is a comedian, writer and artist residing in Dallas, Texas )