You Don't Own the Street, but You Just Might Get Owned by It

Honestly, I sometimes feel a bit superfluous having to write the same piece (give or take) on road and motorcycle safety every other spring. Each time I feel like the time for such a write-up is drawing near, the same questions pop into my mind. “Is all this really necessary? Haven’t people had enough of such preaches? Don’t they ever learn?”
Well, unfortunately it looks like the answers are always in favor of such articles, and even more, reading one or two every spring might even be nowhere near enough. A new generation of riders is facing its first spring, and even if it is the second or the third season for some, such reading is equally helpful. Even more, it seems to me like even the old riders need to be reminded that they don’t own the street every now and then… because learning lasts forever on two wheels.

No matter how cool you might be or might think you are, you don’t own the street. Never did, never will. Au contraire, mon ami, it’s the street who will own you, if you’re not playing by the rules. This truth may seem a bit redundant, especially to riders who understand traffic very well and are usually riding within the limits of both law and safety.

Still, to fellows such as this moron (who also triggered this editorial), certain common sense facts don’t seem to make too much sense. The world is fed up with such chaps who think that certain rules don’t apply just because they belong to a minority… and we riders ARE a minority. They cast a bad light on the riding community and they make other riders look even worse… and this is not at all helpful, especially as motorcyclists are often confronted with a ton of misrepresentation and prejudice.

Riding is really not that much different from using the road inside a car or truck. Okay, riders are obviously more exposed and can get hurt much more easily than those protected by steel structures inside their cars. Such vulnerability should in fact make the riders more careful and willing to avoid unnecessarily putting themselves in more danger, right? Well, it’s exactly what I was telling you before, namely that such common sense is not that common.

If I were to be even more minimalist in my approach to the matter, I’d even say that there is absolutely no difference between riding and driving a car or truck. Surely, certain regulations may impose restrictions for trucks, but the basic rules of the road make no differentiation between such motorized vehicles. So how come that some chaps got the idea that the other road users should yield to them because they are riding? Frankly, I don’t know, but this only demonstrates an ignorance overdose and maybe the fact that they’re not exactly smart. I have met such stupid and overly confident fellows in person and they were still speaking about the right of way when the first part of the phrase already included “200 km/h” or something similar.

I was really curious to see the guy’s reaction when I told him that at such speed, the right of way is utterly irrelevant, and not because he who breaks the law in such a manner would be deprived by such rights, but because it’s obvious that he does not give a flying fudge on his own life. He looked at me with bulging, angry eyes and replied with a question of his own: “what do you mean by irrelevant, the right of way is the right of way!”

“Well, it might be so, but if YOU don’t see it fit to take care of yourself, by at least riding in a decent manner, don’t you think that asking OTHERS to do so for you is a bit off and… egotistic, and impolite?” I asked in return. “Why would anyone give a damn on your safety, when you don’t? How about you were in that car which, as you claim “cuts off your way,” and instead of you on the Gixxer doing 200 km/h a truck full of brick would approach at the same speed? What would you do then?”

“There can’t be any such truck,” he said. “You might be right, but have you ever thought that there is in fact a possibility that a large vehicle would travel at very high speed even though you guesstimate that such chances are slim-to-none? Such frail chances are probably as big as the driver’s expectations to meet you while you do 200…”

While other riders participating in the discussion quickly understood the point, this fellow was not that willing to understand that there are certain limits to using the road, even in the absence of other (legal) limitations. He got mad when I told him that he was stupid, and I wish him all the best. His reply confirmed in a way my supposition that he wasn’t the brightest guy in the crowd. “You simply couldn’t understand this,” he said. “You’re riding that crappy old motorcycle, it’s no use talking to you about such things,” he concluded, making me understand that I had just lost time with a fruitless debate.

It’s really sad to see that the ranks of fellows like this one seem to only get bigger, in the absence of solid road education. Stricter laws can’t be of any help here, because common sense and self-preservation are more on the instinctual side of things and can’t be either imposed by laws or taught.

Common sense and reason simply ARE THERE or are brought by dramatic, intense events. Too bad that when it comes to motorcycles, these “dramatic, intense moments” usually end up very badly, with death being most likely the lucky outcome, if you know what I mean.

I don’t want to sound ominous or unnecessarily grim, but the street tends to own those who think they own the street. Roads have been made for being ridded on, not owned, so to speak. Ride safe and never leave common sense at home.
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