Safe and Unsafe Bikers

As I was stuck in a cage, which is what a biker calls a four-wheeled vehicle, riding in my partner’s car while going to Pittsburgh and back over the last weekend, many motorcycle riders were passing us on the other side of the interstate. On Saturday, May 28, they were headed from Ohio and Pennsylvania, and probably points further north and west, to Washington, DC, to participate in a big motorcycle event held on Sunday, May 29 (you know, the event that the former half-gov of the largest U.S. State appeared at for a photo op — not to commemorate the real reason the event is held.) Many riders returned on Monday, May 30, when I was riding in the opposite direction on my way home.

Most of the motorcycles that passed us in both directions were big Harleys, like mine. And I am happy to say that most of the of the bikers were riding safely — dressed appropriately in the right gear. While the weather was warm, most were wearing long pants, boots, and a helmet.

What bothered me was watching some of the motorcycle riders pull over just as they crossed from Maryland to Pennsylvania, and removed their motorcycle helmet. Yeah, while a helmet is not required by law in Pennsylvania, nonetheless, in my opinion, the difference between a realistic biker and a potential Darwin Award-winner is whether the operator of a big, heavyweight motorcycle keeps his helmet on regardless if the law requires it.

Sure, it was hot, but a well-ventilated helmet actually keeps the sun off the head and helps keep the rider cooler. But to the helmetless unsafe rider, “it’s not cool” to wear a helmet, and they only wear one in Maryland and DC because the law requires it. So sad, really.

The real Darwin Award-winners were those who not only removed their helmet at the rest stop (or worse, along the side of the road next to fast-paced traffic), were those who changed clothes. I saw at least a dozen men remove their boots, take off longer pants, put on shorts (or reveal shorts under the long pants), and put on sneakers instead of their boots.

In my opinion, I feel badly about guys who choose to ride like that.  A realistic, safe biker will wear the proper gear when operating a motorcycle for his protection. Sure, the helmetless shorts-sneaker clad unsafe rider thinks “nothing has happened before and nothing will happen now,” … but it only takes one shard of glass or sharp stone kicked up by a tire in front of him to cause a severe injury to unprotected legs, or an ignorant cage-driver cutting him off, causing him to crash and fall on his unprotected head.

Life is short: wear long pants, boots, and a helmet when operating a motorcycle. Period.

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